• Film ID:
  • 20789
  • Availability:
  • BLU-R - Adv. Booking Required
  • Film cert:
  • Running time:
  • BLU-R=120 min.
  • Nationality(ies):
  • America.
  • Primary Language(s):
  • English.
SOUND OF METAL (2019)
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Director(s)
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Review

(By Ian Freer on EmpireOnline) <br>Ruben (Riz Ahmed) is the drummer in a punk-metal duo with girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). When he begins to intermittently lose his hearing, his musical life seems over. At Lou’s insistence, he reluctantly enters a retreat for the deaf that means giving up his true passion. For a film marinated in silence, Sound Of Metal makes a helluva noise. The accomplished debut from Darius Marder (who co-wrote the screenplay for Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond The Pines), partly inspired by his own experiences with his grandmother who went deaf following a course of antibiotics, allies gripping dramatic questions with imaginative filmmaking (particularly in sound design), topped off by yet another stunning Riz Ahmed performance. The end result is a powerful but sensitive exploration of a so-called disability that challenges perceptions and assumptions about loss of hearing in thoughtful but provocative ways. Ahmed is Ruben, former drug-addicted drummer of metal duo Blackgammon with girlfriend manager Lou (Olivia Cooke) on guitar/vocals. The movie opens with a blistering performance — Sound Of Metal does that thing music dramas rarely do: deliver rocking-out authentically — so shredding and loud it practically gives you ringing ears. The early leisurely likeable sections of the film see Ruben and Lou drifting from gig to gig in an RV, discussing Ruben’s likeness to Jeff Goldblum, flogging their own merch until just before a soundcheck when Ruben’s hearing practically disappears. Following a visit to a pharmacy and further tests, Ruben is told his hearing won’t return — expensive cochlear implants can help — and he must “eliminate all exposure to loud noise”. After Ruben breaks this dictat, Lou decides to endthe tour and get Ruben help. With this in mind, Lou puts Ruben kicking and screaming into a backwoods community for the deaf, where he comes under the auspices of kindly leader Joe (Paul Raci, a benign winning presence).

 

The sound-work backs up the film’s ideology of guarding against deafness as a monolithic affliction.

 

While it sometimes feels languorous, the community section is the heart of Sound Of Metal. The group’s philosophy that deafness is not a disability, not something that needs to be fixed, begins to permeate Ruben’s initial reluctance, and scenes of him leading kids in a drumming session or animatedly signing during a boisterous communal lunch are a delight. Ruben’s arc, a man who lives for music who suddenly has it taken away from him, has all the potential to be a Disease Of The Week style ‘journey’, but Ahmed’s performance, running the gamut from wide-eyed disbelief to ferocious anger to a gentle understanding about his predicament, grounds it in nuance, intensity and vulnerability.

 

 

But perhaps the film’s MVP is sound designer Nicolas Becker. A foley artist on Gravity and Arrival, Becker subtly but effectively evokes the changes in Ruben’s hearing, creating a colourful, varied — rock-critic cliché alert — sonic soundscape to put us inside Ruben’s head both literally and emotionally; from muffled, seemingly underwater sounds to high-pitched whines to a scratchy scraping quality, the sound-work backs up the film’s ideology of guarding against deafness as a monolithic affliction.

 

It comes into its own during the film’s final shot when, resting on Ahmed’s eyes and accompanied by Becker’s exemplary sound-work, Sound Of Metal transcends into a whole new level of moving.

 

A beautifully argued parable about the need to go where life takes you, Darius Marder’s debut thrives on the soul of Riz Ahmed and the bold creativity of sound designer Nicholas Becker. Together they make Sound Of Metal sing.

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