One of the great powers of movies is to let viewers understand people and events that they will never find themselves. Another great power is to allow viewers to see when a story reveals their unique experience. Metal sound is win, win, with a powerful performance by Riz Ahmed in a sensational drama by Darius Marder.
Riz Ahmed in ‘Sound of Metal’
Ruben (Ahmed) is the drummer for singer Lou (Olivia Cooke). After a long appearance for loud music of their own creation, Ruben loses ¾ of his hearing. The medical prognosis is that Ruben will have to eliminate his exposure to loud noise so that they can reassess.
A cochlear implant may be possible, but it costs $ 40 – 80,000 and insurance does not cover that. The film will never reveal whether Ruben has health insurance or not. It would be controversial since cochlear implants are out of pocket, but as an independent singer, Ruben is not like someone who bought his own cover or applied for an ACA.
To help, Lou connects Ruben with Joe (Paul Raci), a deaf veteran who runs a program for the Deaf. Ruben willingly enrols in the program, meaning separation from Lou as well, but his heart is not completely there. As Ruben sees it, he spends his time so he can raise money for his installation and get back to music.
Destructive performance by Riz Ahmed
Ahmad reveals much of Ruben’s journey without conversation. Ruben was not a talking boy before he lost his hearing. Now that others can’t hear, from his companion Lou to Joe and the folks at his show, Ruben is even more isolated.
Ruben is all rage. Ahmed delivers that intensity consistently throughout Metal sound. Ruben was also a heroin liar. It’s been a successful four years, and much of what Joe does is deal with hearing loss and preventing relapse. Raci is a character actor, deaf adult child, American Sign Language interpreter and musician.
Paul is in many ways heart and soul Metal sound. He has exercises for Ruben that involve doing less. Ruben isn’t the first person he’s met who opposes his program, but his methods are inclusive, not consistent.
Same problem with watching Metal sound at home there are a few key scenes hovering over handwritten notes. They are too small to read on a TV screen, let alone handwritten. You’ll get the chest though and it won’t hold up the film.
You never know where ‘Sound of Metal’ is going
Metal sound a play that cannot be measured. It is not a story about Ruben learning new skills or finding a new community. Ruben makes amazing choices like people do in real life when they are not following a movie formula. That makes it difficult to peg Metal sound but questionable to look at.
You see when Ruben breaks Joe’s heart in ways that Ruben doesn’t even understand. That’s the power of drama where you get to know the characters rather than worrying about explaining the plot. The impact of one decision can cut deeper.
Metal sound first premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival and has made its way around the world festivals to AFI Fest. It will be on Amazon Dec. 4 so everyone can experience the raw feel of the film.