Film review: “Sound of Metal”

Director and writer Darius Marder portrays adjusting to the silence


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By Jacob Baker

For a film about a heavy-metal drummer, “Sound of Metal” thrives in its most quiet moments. Released theatrically on Nov. 20 and on Amazon Prime Dec. 4, “Sound of Metal” is a film that delivers a heartfelt story about coming to grips with reality.

“Sound of Metal” follows heavy-metal drummer Ruben, played by the fantastic Riz Ahmed, as his hearing deteriorates to almost nothing. The audience follows Ruben’s intense and immensely realistic portrayal of deafness as it affects his world and those around him. 

Aside from Ahmed’s touching performance, director and writer Darius Marder helms this film with an unrivaled delicacy. “Sound of Metal” thrives in its most quiet moments. A huge theme within the film is appreciating silence and stillness, a struggle for Ruben as he adjusts to his new life. 

 Marder lets every scene, every still and every landscape used mediate in a soothing fashion, whether it’s Ruben spending his time with nothing but a pen and paper or Ruben spending time with deaf kids in the countryside. Following Ruben in this fashion gives the audience a ton of time to get to know Ruben on a deeper level and often without any words spoken. As Ruben learns to use sign language more than his voice, the film progressively gets quieter as well. It’s this direction from Marder that makes “Sound of Metal” a consoling experience. 

Ahmed’s performance in “Sound of Metal” perfectly showcases  how he’s settling into his own style as an actor. Ahmed does it all here. He nails heartbreak without being too melodramatic and conveys the biggest joys of having a significant other. It’s all of the accumulation in Ruben’s journey that makes his character’s realization at the ending of the film so much more beautiful and rewarding. 

It’s other performances from Ruben’s girlfriend, played by Olivia Cooke, and Ruben’s deaf teacher, played by Paul Raci, that only boost the realism of the film. Cooke is the lead singer of Ruben’s band and she is just as devastated as Ruben is about his ordeal, but the way she consoles her emotions to make Ruben’s situation less worrisome is warming. Raci’s performance is one of the very best supporting performances this year. Raci’s unconditional support  as a coach and mentor for the deaf community makes the audience feel like Ruben has truly got a lot of hope in front of him. 

One of the coolest aspects of the film is the sound manipulation on display. Throughout the film, the audience gets to hear what Ruben hears. This ranges from absolute silence, distorted crowds and what hearing implants actually sound like. 

“Sound of Metal” is a powerful and important film that succeeds almost to the highest degree due to its direction, performances and its portrayal of deafness. “Sound of Metal” may not be the best film of 2020, but it sure adds another excellent entry to this year with less than a month left until 2021.