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  Sound of Metal One Sense Down
Year: 2019
Director: Darius Marder
Stars: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Lauren Ridloff, Mathieu Almaric, Domenico Toledo, Chelsea Lee, Shaheem Sanchez, Chris Perfetti, Chris Thorpe, Michael Tow, William Xifaras, Rena Malizsewski, Tom Kemp
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ruben (Riz Ahmed) is an ex-heroin addict who has channelled his frustrations with life into the band he plays in with his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke); he drums while she sings and plays guitar, and they make quite the racket. However, while on tour he starts to have problems: the music has been very loud, and his cacophonous drumming has taken its toll on his hearing to the extent that he has abruptly started to lose it. If he was going to go deaf, he might have expected it to happen gradually, and in older age, but the damage has been done, and now he has to struggle with his new condition...

They do say if you want to win awards as an actor one of the best ways to do it is to play disabled, and so it was that Ahmed was nominated for an Oscar in his role as the troubled, bullish Ruben. But that was not to say it was a gimmicky performance, he truly committed to it and immersed himself in American deaf culture (he sports an American accent for this one, as does Cooke) to relate to the part and convey what it must be like to have that kind of physical rebellion against yourself. All in all, it was very well-received by the mainstream, with its sound design coming in for particular praise.

However, there were some grumbles that the script was a lot less realistic than the performances, and many in the deaf community pointed out its flaws, chief among them an apparent lack of research into cochlear implants which can, in some cases, bring the hearing back, or allow those who never heard anything at all to finally have that ability. Even if you did not know about the finer details of these circumstances, you may find yourself pausing and wondering if director Darius Marder had his facts right, for quite a bit about this drama did not ring true, not least the attitude of the character of Joe (Paul Raci), the outwardly considerate but actually intolerant retreat's head honcho.

Joe is essentially God, the being who Ruben must reckon with if he is to make it through this mighty test of his mettle. When he goes mostly deaf, he attends a retreat on the advice of Lou, and after a lot of persuasion agrees to stay there and, among other things, learn sign language. Joe runs this country practice with a benevolent but no-nonsense air, yet the first thing he demands of our hero is that he have no contact with the outside world, including Lou, if he is to stay there, which would be a terrible idea since for those affected by an upheaval in illness or disability one of the best things you can have is for those who know you to be there to support you and help you weather the storm. If you lost a limb, the experts would not recommend you spend your every waking hour exclusively with others who have lost the same.

Whipping that support out from under Ruben's feet naturally does not have a great effect on him, and he spirals into a decline that could have seen him return to his addiction if they were not careful. What are Joe's qualifications, anyway?! Making matters worse, he casts Ruben from the Deaf Garden of Eden for the crime of applying for those implants, rather than boosting his confidence and offering advice. Fair enough, there are those in the community who wear their deafness as a badge of pride and may be suspicious of others who wish to cure it, but for a leader of a medical facility to behave like that puts his judgement into serious question. To compound this, when Ruben gets his implants, he appears to have no support whatsoever, no follow-ups or anything, which in real life would be highly reckless. You don't need to have experience of the medical profession to be aware that Sound of Metal's world is something of a fantasy, and that's a pity because it sells some excellent performances short in a rather shapeless, loose narrative lacking in credibility. Music by Nicolas Becker and Abraham Marder.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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