Sound of Metal (2019)

Riz Ahmed gives an extraordinary performance as a punk-metal drummer and recovering addict who is going deaf
Ruben is a small-time punk metal drummer .He lives in an RV with his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke), and the two form a touring band .
One day, Ruben’s hearing suddenly, abruptly disappears; a doctor informs him he won’t regain his hearing, although expensive implant surgery is an option.
Hearing loss comes on suddenly — the sound drops out from his surroundings, and voices become muffled. Ruben reaches for his ears, his eyes dart around, and we see abject terror on his face.
Lou convinces Ruben to enter a rural community rehab center for deaf people struggling with addictions.The rehab is run by Vietnam vet Joe (Paul Raci).


"On the surface it’s a solid and and absorbing character study. But thanks to Marder’s script and masterful direction, and Ahmed’s beautiful performance, there are increasingly deeper layers that take this movie to a deeper place."
The fragility of daily existence is captured empathetically and compassionately in Darius Marder’s excellent “Sound of Metal,” a film that should catapult Riz Ahmed to the top of any producer’s casting list. His work here is a model of restraint, a performance that goes for the effective low-key choices instead of the broad emotional ones every time and is all the more powerful by feeling more genuine. Films about life-changing events often play to the cheap seats, turning up the melodrama to tug at the heartstrings, but Marder and Ahmed have collaborated here on an incredibly refined character piece. It’s a movie that doesn’t just allow for silence but thrives in it, with Ahmed’s eyes and body language charting the arc of his character. He doesn't miss a beat.

The other star of “Sound of Metal” for most people will be the sound design. Marder regularly puts us in Ruben’s state, hearing muffled sounds or unintelligible conversations. In fact, it’s interesting to note when Marder traps viewers in Ruben’s auditory condition and when he allows us to escape it (the latter often happens only when Ruben could otherwise “hear” the conversation, such as in a speech-to-text program used by Joe).

As much of a breakthrough as the sound design is here, it really is Riz Ahmed’s movie. It’s no surprise that he learned how to play drums in the six months before shooting and studied deafness. It just speaks to the depth or performance. There’s not a single scene or emotional beat that feels false.

Marder hass spent the past decade trying to make “Sound of Metal.” The idea for the movie came 13 years ago, Marder says, when he first met writer/director Derek Cianfrance, with whom he co-wrote The Place Beyond the Pines.”

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