During a series of adrenaline-fueled one-night gigs, itinerant punk-metal drummer Ruben (Riz Ahmed) begins to experience intermittent hearing loss. When a specialist tells him his condition will rapidly worsen, he thinks his music career — and with it his life — is over. His bandmate and girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) checks the recovering heroin addict into a secluded sober house for the deaf in hopes it will prevent a relapse and help him learn to adapt to his new situation. But after being welcomed into a community that accepts him just as he is, Ruben has to choose between his equilibrium and the drive to reclaim the life he once knew. Utilizing startling, innovative sound design techniques, director Darius Marder takes audiences inside Ruben’s experience to vividly recreate his journey into a rarely examined world.
What We Thought:
If Sound of Metal was about 15-20 minutes shorter I would have really liked it. I liked it quite a bit for a few reasons, but I do think it slowed down at one point and my interest slightly faded. But I do recommend it and it’s one of the better movies I’ve seen in 2020.
Riz Ahmed definitely gets himself a seat at the big boy table with his performance in the film. He’s very captivating and shows a ton of range. He’s a rock drummer. He’s an addict. He’s a boyfriend. He’s newly deaf. He struggles to fit in with his new environment. He’s great in the role. I’ve seen him in different things over the years, but hopefully the film picks up some steam in awards seasons, especially in the indie scene and he gets the notice he deserves.
I also loved the style of the film. It opens with an intense rock show. It feels like a scene out of Whiplash. Then as Ahmed’s character realizes he’s going deaf, he struggles and his girlfriend (an unrecognizable Olivia Cooke) worries about his sobriety. He goes to a community to stay sober and also cope with his hearing loss. There he learns sign language and is surrounded by others who are like him, both deaf and those with sobriety issues. You would think such tonal shifts in a movie would feel out of place, but they are pretty smooth and because you don’t get a ton of backstory early on, you don’t feel like you’re being jilted out of one movie into a totally different movie. The transitions from chapter to chapter flow pretty effortlessly.
Keeping with the style of the film, it should definitely get recognition for sound editing. The movie makes you feel what Ahmed is going through, blocking out sounds at time, distorting it at others, using closed captioning like a deaf person would. I don’t know a film that I could compare it to. With a title like Sound of Metal you know sound will definitely play a major role in the movie, but it goes beyond that. It engrosses you and makes you feel lost and confused at times like the character.
Sound of Metal is playing in limited theaters before hitting Amazon Prime December 4. I hope people check it out because Ahmed will definitely surprise you. I’m curious to see if what’s happening to movies in 2020 will help or hurt the film. People seem to be watching streaming more than ever, but there are also a lot more films to choose from because of it. Some movies are finding an audience, others are completely forgotten. Hopefully it gets some award love especially the indie awards. Ahmed has already been nominated for a Best Actor at the Gotham Awards so that’s a good start!