Time: 101 Minutes
Riz Ahmed as Ruben Stone
Olivia Cooke as Lou
Paul Raci as Joe
Lauren Ridloff as Diane
Mathieu Amalric as Richard Berger
Director: Darius Marder
A heavy-metal drummer’s (Riz Ahmed) life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing.
I heard of Sound of Metal more recently, I knew it was about a metal drummer who loses his hearing, and it starred Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke, both of whom are great actors whose work I’m always interested in. I also heard that the movie was great going into it, but it really caught me by surprise how fantastic it turned out to be.
Now you could say that the movie is structured in a predictable way, and in some ways you’d be right. There aren’t huge surprises and in some ways, it does follow a familiar narrative arc of someone’s journey of self discovery and acceptance with their new circumstances, but it doesn’t play out in the same way that you would expect. The whole story really feels real and pulls you in, and you really get invested with everything that is happening with the main character. Much of the movie is Ruben coming to terms with his situation, and that part is handled so well. The writing overall is thoughtful, sensitive and very impactful, and it never feels heavy handed. There’s a genuine and down to earth rawness through which hooks you in emotionally, which is one of the key parts to why it really sticks with you. One of the most best films I recall seeing in recent memory when it comes to examining a character dealing with a sudden handicap, and it’s an insightful and respectful delve into a world that most people don’t really know much about. It refrains from big ‘dramatic’ moments, preferring to focus on quiet and powerful character interactions and moments, that has you constantly engaged. The last moments of the film are heart-breaking and uplifting all at once, resulting in a perfect ending for the story.
The acting is amazing all round. As lead character Ruben, Riz Ahmed gives one of the best performances of 2020. I’ve seen him in a number of things, from Nightcrawler back in 2014, to his previous career best performance in The Night Of. Sound of Metal however has Ahmed’s best performance of his career. He is so believable and naturalistic on his part, conveying so much with his eyes and body language. It’s really his movie throughout, and it is one of the most well realised performances of the year. Olivia Cooke is great too as Ruben’s girlfriend whose also part of the same band as him when he finds himself losing his hearing. With this character, Cooke really conveyed how Ruben’s hearing loss also greatly affected her too. She’s not in the movie a ton, but she’s fantastic in the scenes she’s in, one of her best performances. Another heartfelt and great performance worth noting is from Paul Raci as Joe, who is a counsellor at the deaf community that Ruben finds himself in.
The movie is directed by Darius Marder, this is his directorial debut and it’s a great one at that. The sound mixing is one of the highlighted aspects of the movie, particularly how it plays with sound and especially when it comes to what Ruben can or can’t hear. It often shows two different scenarios that it switches between, one which shows a normal sound one from a third person view, and the muted or distorted sound through Ruben’s perspective. It’s incredibly effective.
Sound of Metal is an emotional and heart-warming yet incredibly genuine drama, powerfully led by great performances (including a career best Riz Ahmed) and is very well made. It’s one of the best films of 2020 and I highly recommend checking it out as soon as you can.