A drummer begins to lose his hearing and must come to grips with a future that will be filled with silence.
When I first heard about Sound of Metal, I knew that sound design would be a crucial element to the film’s success. What I was not expecting was that the lack of sound and even the use of subtitles would be so impactful. Not since A Quiet Place, has silence been used so deftly and at times, even suffocating. Much more so than what I have seen used in many films about hearing loss.
Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler, Venom) portrays Ruben a man whose drumming in his two-piece metal band is everything to him. Playing small gigs and living day to day with his girlfriend Lou, Olivia Cooke, (Ready Player One, Bates Motel) brings meaning to his life, gives him purpose. Then almost out of now where, his hearing is gone. This is where Sound of Metal takes a right turn.
It is also a story of addiction.
Ruben is an addict and has also been using his drumming as a way of coping with his addiction. He and Lou travel to a farm where they meet Joe, (Paul Raci). Joes leads a community of people dealing with addiction within a larger community of the deaf. It is this place where Ruben must leave everything behind and discover a life with new purpose.
The acting is spot on in this film to the point where it feels honest and real. Riz’s facial expressions and emotions in his eyes captivate and make you feel his range of emotions. Joe is the best rendition of an addiction counselor I have seen on film. His portrayal is honest, sympathetic and tough when needed. Olivia Cooke performance holds the films foundation bringing truth and stability to allow Riz Ahmed to build upon.
Finally, one of the most powerful things about this film is its metaphor for 2020. Out of no where we were faced with a pandemic that caused us to begin to feel isolated and detached from the world around us. One day we were going about our lives and then the next we were on a stay-at-home order and only communicating with people over the internet. This is fully realized in the way Sound of Metal uses sound to switch back and forth from Ruben’s perspective to ours is jolting and anxiety inducing at times. We relate and feel the pressure and anxiety Ruben is going through.
This directorial debut from Darius Marder is a solid film and will surely garner awards as the season approaches. Sound of metal is Heavy Metal.