After months of hype and award nominations, Sound of Metal has finally arrived on our screens courtesy of Amazon Prime. And boy was it worth the wait.
Written and directed by Darius Marder (writer of The Place Beyond the Pines), Sound of Metal follows Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed), a heavy metal drummer in a fairly successful band with his partner Lou (Olivia Cooke). They’re travelling across the US in an RV, and are in the middle of a tour when Ruben’s hearing fails. Despite receiving medical advice to avoid loud sounds, Ruben continues to drum until his hearing fails completely, where he’s then guided by Lou and his sponsor Hector to a deaf community and retreat led by Joe (Paul Raci). Here Ruben, a recovering addict 4 years clean, is offered a new life completely different to the one he has grown accustomed to. After his initial protests, he soon comes to appreciate his new community yet faces continued struggles to overcome his desperation to regain his hearing.
What makes Sound of Metal such a compelling watch is that it feels so real, to the point where it almost feels like you’re watching a documentary rather than a work of fiction. You can tell that Darius Marder, and his brother and musician Abraham who co-wrote the script, have real knowledge of both the music industry and the dead community. From the early gig scenes to those conducted later entirely using American Sign Language (ASL), it is incredibly detailed and realistic. The scenes that let us experience Ruben’s hearing loss first hand are so immersive that they begin to feel uncomfortably real for us as viewers. There’s also the scenic outdoor shots, where the background noise and nature sounds have been heightened to provide a brilliant contrast against the rest of the film.
And then there’s Riz Ahmed, who takes us on a heartwarming (and heartwrenching) journey as Ruben. It isn’t very often that a film can be carried on an actor’s facial expressions and body language, but Sound of Metal thrives on this. Ahmed conveys such emotion in his face and even in ASL too, which is no mean feat. The fact that he also learnt to play the drums for this role shows, and there isn’t a single moment that doesn’t seem believable. I’ve adored Ahmed since his turn in 2010s Four Lions, but I feel like he may have been a little underrated over the years. However, after this performance, he’ll never be underrated again and wholeheartedly deserves to win that Oscar.
Another notable mention is Paul Raci as retreat leader Joe. Having been born to deaf parents and being fluent in ASL, his performance again only adds to the realistic feel of the film. And the emotion and heart he puts into his turn as Joe is incredibly beautiful to watch and a fantastic supporting role, yet another deserving Oscar nomination for sure.
There are some aspects of the film that weren’t perfect. Shots of handwritten messages that were far too short and not close enough to be able to easily read before the film progressed onto the next scene, and Olivia Cooke’s bleached eyebrows were incredibly distracting in every scene they featured. But honestly, this is me nitpicking. Overall, Sound of Metal is an incredibly moving and immersive story of both hearing loss and addiction, featuring some incredibly deserving award-nominated performances.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!