Sound of Metal

Ruben and Lou are a heavy-metal duo, musically and romantically, and they tour the US in their luxury RV. Their world falls apart when Ruben suddenly goes catastrophically deaf (hardly surprising really as their ‘music’ is cacophonous). Ruben is determined to save their band and relationship by regaining his hearing; Lou, with the help of his addiction counsellor, finds him a place in a home for the deaf, run by Vietnam war vet Joe (Paul Raci), whose advice is that he has to learn how to be deaf.

Using a total immersion technique, Ruben is soon adept at ASL (sign language) and loving teaching the kids at the attached school, not least because of gorgeous teacher Diane (Lauren Ridloff, who is in real-life Deaf Miss America). But Ruben – maybe as a result of his addiction legacy, it is not clear – has a kind of ADHT and is always looking for something, in this case a return to Lou and his old life. He has been advised early on that cochlear implants are the only solution but expensive at $80,000 and he has no cash. The big question is whether this would provide the answers.

It’s an astonishing performance by Riz Ahmed, who learned the drums in 6 months to play the role and lived as a deaf person when filming. Lou, played by another Brit, Olivia Cooke, also delivers a nuanced and sympathetic performance as she sees her whole life slipping away – she also wrote and performed the song the film in the opening sequence. The film rings very true somehow, whether down to the chronological shooting and/or the authenticity of the deaf environment. For instance, Paul Raci grew up with deaf parents, and the improvised school scenes where Ruben teaches the kids drumming, all contribute to making this a gritty drama. The only mis-hit for me is Ruben’s addiction, which adds little or nothing to the plot line.

A great friend of mine also lost her hearing and I can guarantee that this is devastating, whether you’re a musician or just a normal person. Nominated for six Oscars, I think it has a good chance of picking up one or two.

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