“As you know, everybody here shares in the belief that being deaf is not a handicap. Not something to fix. It’s pretty important around here. All these kids… all of us, need to be reminded of it every day.“
Going into this without so much as reading the synopsis was a new experience for me, and I think one of the most notable things about Sound of Metal is how well-paced it is, and how each narrative beat has enough room to breathe and grow and transition effectively to the next, at no point did I ever feel like it dragged.
Aiding to this is director Darius Marder‘s understanding of when to and when to not execute tension within a scene. There are plenty of scenes that benefit from both, and Marder‘s restraint in not trying to add unnecessary weight to scenes that you would expect to be held down by it, is what ultimately makes Sound of Metal feel as real as it is. When Riz Ahmed’s Ruben has a doctor explain to him about is condition Marder holds back on the theatrics, there’s no long pauses or dramatic dialogue or slow camera zooms, it just feels like it’s actually happening and it’s quite unsettling. Marder also uses perspective as a tool to add more power to a scene or remove our bias towards Ahmed‘s protagonist. In a scene where Ruben has a breakdown we enter through the perspective of his girlfriend, Olivia Cooke‘s Lou, and her distress at seeing him in such a state is projected onto us as an audience, which would have been replaced with a dulled sense of pity and empathy had we been seeing it through Ruben’s eyes instead.
Cooke is good here but it’s Ahmed that takes all of the intensity for himself, and he carries himself through every scene brilliantly, what’s most poignant about his performance is his ability to express Ruben’s character before the condition clashing with current Ruben. A lot of actors could have taken Ruben on as: ‘man losing his hearing’ Ahmed plays him as: ‘man who had hearing who is now losing it’ and the distinction may be hard to fathom in a practical sense, but it’s in the little moments that Ahmed explores as Ruben, where he paints a picture of the man that was before. And it seems for Ruben to retain that, is his real journey within the narrative.
Sound of Metal doesn’t seem to be receiving a lot of attention, which is unfair, it’s a film that hits incredibly hard, relays deafness in a realistic and respectful way and it’s painfully emotional, definitely worthy of recognition.
Sound of Metal is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Drama, Music | USA, 2019 | 15 | Amazon Prime 12th April 2021 (UK). 17th May (UK Cinemas) | Vertigo Releasing | Dir.Darius Marder | Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Mathieu Amalric,