Sound of Metal

  • Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke.
  • May 21st 2021
  • Darius Marder

Riz Ahmed plays a drummer who starts to lose his hearing in Darius Marder’s Oscar-nominated film.

Sound of Metal has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Riz Ahmed. Why does it deserve all these nods? Read on to find out.

The film follows drummer and former addict Ruben Stone (Ahmed), who is in a punk-metal band called Blackgammon with his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke), as he begins to lose his hearing.

Concerned he may relapse, Lou calls Ruben’s sponsor Hector and he finds him a place at a rural retreat for deaf recovering addicts, where he must learn sign language and accept his newfound deafness.

Ruben is determined to have implants fitted to help him hear, which disappoints Joe (Paul Raci), who runs the retreat on the belief that being deaf is not a handicap.

Sound of Metal’s biggest strength is its sound design. It puts the audience in Ruben’s shoes and gives us a taste of what it might sound like to gradually lose your hearing. There are scenes in a crowded room yet we hear nothing but silence – as Ruben would – and it makes you realise how much you take your hearing for granted.

Writer/director Darius Marder also made the genius decision to not use subtitles when the characters use sign language near the start of the film because Ruben hasn’t learned it yet – so this makes the audience just as clueless about what’s being communicated as he is.

As soon as Ruben understands sign language, the subtitles appear.

These decisions make the film confusing and disorientating at times but that’s the whole point, and it’s very effective at immersing us in Ruben’s perspective.

Ahmed deserves his Oscar nomination for the role of Ruben, which required him to bulk up, learn drums, and how to communicate using American Sign Language. He gives a moving performance as Ruben grieves his hearing and his old life.

His co-star Raci, the hearing son of deaf parents, has been nominated too, and rightly so. Joe is a recovering alcoholic who lost his hearing in the Vietnam War and a firm authority figure who takes a tough-love approach with Ruben.

Cooke rounds out the main cast as the girlfriend who always has so much worry and concern on her face and will do everything she can to help him.

The only downside is the film feels a little too long and lags towards the end, but this is a small niggle about a feature with a compelling character arc, impressive performances, and clever technical decisions.

On Amazon Prime Video now.

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