“Sound of Metal” is a path through the melancholy truth many people face on a daily basis. This film was incredibly impactful because of the absolutely amazing performance by Riz Ahmed. I do want to warn you there will be spoilers ahead!
“Sound of Metal” tells the story of Rueben Stone, a musician who starts losing his hearing. His love for music and his girlfriend, Lou (played by Olivia Cooke), are what have been keeping him afloat through his recovery from addiction. When he starts losing his hearing, he relocates to a shelter for recovering addicts who are deaf. At this new location, we are shown how Rueben tries coping with this new life.
He then meets Joe (played by Paul Raci) who is the main coordinator at this shelter and his mentoring truly helps Rueben in his attempt to understand his deafness. While at the shelter Rueben learns American Sign Language and forms relationships with some of the people there. It seems like he’s learning how to be deaf and adjust to this major change in his life. This was obviously very heartwarming to see unfold in my opinion.
Throughout the film, Rueben is fixated on doing all he can to get cochlear implants so he can regain his hearing. With this surgery, his girlfriend and his adoration for music would return— his life would go back to “normal”. Rueben believes that all will be fixed so long as his hearing is restored. Because of this fixation, he ends up selling his RV and asking Joe for money so he can get his surgery. This is when he asked to leave the shelter because Joe realizes he hasn’t learned what he had hoped. Joe wanted Rueben to know that his loss of hearing isn’t something you should try to fix, but rather embrace and learn that it’s a part of you now.
I found it important to showcase this duality between Rueben trying to go back to the way things were and wanting to return to what he thought to be normal— a life he loved. But, I also find it important to show how Joe’s teaching and guidance is for everyone. Not everyone who arrives at the shelter has the opportunity that Ruben has to get implants and regain some of his hearing. Joe has to teach in a way that will help everyone understand their deafness and not focus on it as a problem that they need to fix.
In the end, Rueben gets the surgery and reunites with Lou (his girlfriend) but he realizes that the implants still distort the sounds he hears. Lou and Rueben break up and we are left with what seems like an epiphany for Rueben. Perhaps he will continue to think about what Joe and his experiences at the shelter taught him as he sits on a bench comforted by silence.
I am not a part of the deaf community and would never try to speak on their experiences or situations, but I think that the story was great for its showcase of deafness and the struggles that surround it in relation to being a musician. I want to reiterate the fact that Riz Ahmed’s performance was purely beautiful. It was so powerful that at times I felt his frustration and sadness so internally. A major asset this film has is its sound design. You’d be surprised that a film with such limited audio has amazing sound design, but in the moments where the sound was present, it was extraordinary. Such perfectly placed sounds with so much restriction throughout the film made it so enjoyable.
On the other hand, I wish the story was more cohesive because it jumped through different storylines a bit too much. One second it was about his love for music, the next was about his relationship and love for Lou, and then it jumped back to his journey becoming deaf. Despite this, I enjoyed this film a lot. I would definitely recommend it for the performances and the sound design. It is truly captivating, so I hope you watch collegiates!