Directed by Darius Marder, “The Sound of Metal” was released Nov. 20, 2020 on Amazon Prime. The film follows Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed), a metal drummer who begins to lose his hearing. Ruben believes his career is over and is sent into a spiral after his doctor showed serious concern for his rapidly deteriorating hearing.
Ruben and his girlfriend Lou Berger (Olivia Cooke) live in an RV they travel around in and perform gigs across the United States. Despite his doctor’s recommendation of eliminating loud noises, Ruben continues to drum at performances and believes his problem can be solved by a cochlear implant, which according to Mayo Clinic is the insertion of “an electronic device that partially restores hearing.” The most significant element of the movie is movement from the static noise from Ruben’s point of view to those who can hear around him. When the sound is from Ruben’s point of view it shows how severe his hearing is and his inability to communicate with others.
Because Ruben is a recovering drug addict, his girlfriend grows concerned about his mental well-being while he is checked into a deaf shelter for recovering addicts. There, Ruben meets Joe, who lost his hearing in an explosion in the Vietnam War, and as he settles in at the shelter, he starts to learn American Sign Language (ASL). As someone who took ASL in high school, I was able to relate to Ruben’s frustration of picking up another language that is solely based on hand gestures and visuals.
The film shows the battles Ruben faces every day dealing with sobriety and the one thing he loves the most: music. It is miserable to see his internal conflicts and the silence that fills his life. Once Ruben accepts his reality and immerses himself in the community, he is able to find other forms of music through bass vibrations. Despite his progress and never turning back to drugs, Ruben instead became addicted to music and the desire to hear again, ultimately leading him to get the cochlear implant surgery. However, the implants aren’t that simple and Ruben still struggles to fully hear. After reuniting with Lou again, the distorted sound becomes too much and Ruben goes outside, stares into the horizon and removes his cochlear implant, finally accepting the silence.
The film was nominated for Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Sound and Best Original Screenplay Writing. Actor Paul Raci has also been nominated for Best Supporting Actor in his role of Joe in “The Sound of Metal.”
The movie made me cry one moment and smile the next. It was a roller coaster and a journey that showed someone being stripped of something they loved. I would be genuinely shocked if the film doesn’t take home the Oscar for Best Sound for its outstanding complexity in Ruben’s journey with sound. “The Sound of Metal” represented an endeavour to accept a new reality while leaving the old one behind through an achingly and beautiful story of a late-deafened drummer.