REVIEW: SOUND OF METAL
At the beginning of quarantine, I found myself with an abundance of free time and no idea how to handle it. I decided to learn a bit of ASL. I downloaded a few free apps on my phone and over the course of a couple months, I transitioned from the alphabet to simple phrases and basic sentences.
It began as just a hobby and interest. Little did I know it would help me understand Riz Ahmed’s character in Amazon Studio’s recently released movie “Sound of Metal”.
Ahmed plays Reuben Stone, a drummer in the low-scale punk-metal duo with his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). Reuben soon realizes that he is losing his hearing. At first it seems it’ll happen gradually, but suddenly existential panic washes over Reubens face as the world around him goes silent, but for a few instances of muffled voices.
Reuben’s new situation, and his reaction to it, cause Lou to force him to join a community of deaf people struggling with addiction. Although he is four years sober as a heroin user, Lou believes that Rueben’s new reality will incite a relapse. Of course, Reuben is hesitant and pessimistic about the support group and community, but he ends up accepting it.
The community is run by Joe (Paul Raci), a recovering alcoholic who lost his hearing after a bomb explosion while he served in Vietnam. The movie follows Reuben’s turbulent journey of learning to live in a world of silence. But it's not so much the story that gives “Sound of Metal” its life, but the experience as a whole.
The visual and audio changes create some of the movie's most defining scenes. Writer-Director Darius Marder along with his sound designer Nicolas Becker create a soundtrack for the movie that dips in and out of the world of the hearing to Reuban’s experience with silence. A movie that is sound and visual heavy instead of dialogue may seem like it would lose its audience at some point, but Ahmed’s incredible performance held my attention with ease.
The movie isn’t trying to really teach us about the deaf community, despite scenes only in ASL and showcasing an ASL school, instead it is meant to put Reuben’s struggle with his identity at the forefront. Before losing hearing, Reuben seemed to try to overshadow his negative addiction past by acting and speaking with a forceful determined nature.
During his time with the deaf community, Joe notices Reuben’s inability to accept his situation and tries to get Reuben to pay closer attention to his surroundings. This new awakening to the calm of the world around him happens through his ASL lessons, his relationships with other community members, and from sitting still and writing (per Joe’s request). All of the build up in the movie leaves us with the question of if Reuben notice’s that life accepting his deafness can bring him more stability than life with hearing.
“Sound of Metal” was not a movie I would have originally picked out for myself, but I have absolutely no regrets.