'Sound of Metal': Plot steals show with most accurate depiction of deaf people and lesson in self-acceptance
It's as if the director is trying to remind us of the sounds we regularly hear and always take for granted; the sounds so many people all over the world haven't, or can no longer, experience
Debutant director Darius Marder's 'Sound of Metal' is a unique film. It's the kind of film that cannot be spoiled by revealing the plot because, right from the onset, we know the protagonist, Ruben Stone, is going to go deaf. A drummer in a heavy metal band named Blackgammon along with his girlfriend, Lou, music is an inseparable part of Ruben's life.
Portrayed to near perfection by Riz Ahmed, Ruben, one fine day out of the blue, can only hear muffled sounds. He soon finds out that he has lost his ability to hear and it's not coming back. This, quite naturally, throws his life into disarray. He can no longer perform, has to abandon the band's tour midway, and, the most devastating part, has to be away from his girlfriend, played excellently by Olivia Cooke, to stay in a retreat for the hearing impaired.
But the journey is difficult. Most of us can't even begin to imagine what it'd be like if we woke up one day and could no longer hear. The movie, ironically, is extremely calm and quiet in most parts. Even though it starts off with heavily distorted guitars and earth-shattering double-bass drumming, the sounds of the flowing river, chirping birds, trilling insects and rustling leaves take over after Ruben's loss of hearing.
It's as if the director is trying to remind us of the sounds we regularly hear and always take for granted; the sounds so many people all over the world haven't, or can no longer, experience. But, more importantly, it stresses the fact that deaf people, no matter what any of us might think, are no different than the rest. Paul Raci as Joe, a Vietnam veteran who runs the support group/retreat, has delivered a flawless performance in 'Sound of Metal'. He comes forward as Ruben's spirit guide, the man who makes him see that a disability is actually not a disability at all and that it all depends on self-acceptance. Are you ready to accept yourself as you are? Or are you only going to sulk and moan and curse your way through it all?
Ruben does do that for a long time. He yells, curses, and calls Paul a "f**king idiot". He's unwilling to accept life as a deaf person. To him, it's a disability, but only because he sees it that way. He's surrounded by people who are, just like him, hearing impaired, but they're always smiling, laughing, playing, and having fun.
There's a beauty in the depth in which the deaf have been portrayed in 'Sound of Metal'. Not at any point are they shown as less fortunate or unlucky. Ruben's struggle, too, has been written by Darius and Abraham Marder in the most convincing way. At the end of the movie, when Ruben thinks he has what he wanted only to realize he's been wrong all along thus completing his circle of self-acceptance, is a striking, moving and one of the best film endings in quite some time (perhaps since 'The Irishman').
Watch this one for the sheer care, vulnerability, and astuteness with which 'Sound of Metal' has been conceived.