What does it mean to lose something? Will it ever come back? Will your life change forever? Who will you be afterwards? The answers to these questions are not always easy to swallow, but with help from others, life inevitably moves forward. The human spirit is tough. It will not be broken, and it has the ability to adapt. There is no better instance of this than what Darius Marder has given us with his debut feature, Sound of Metal. Through tender filmmaking and a career best performance from Riz Ahmed, this film shows us that coming to terms with the hand you’ve been dealt is the only true path to serenity.
As the film begins, we hear the roar of the crowd, the blaring speakers, the pounding of the drums. Sound is everything. We’re brought immediately into the life of Ruben Stone, a drummer who, along with his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke), lives and breathes the metal scene. Bleach blonde hair and covered in tattoos, Ruben is the embodiment of metal, and playing music gives him a passionate sense of purpose; then sound goes out. Ruben begins experiencing severe hearing loss and we begin down a path of confusion and bewilderment. When Ruben begins to realize that his relationship with music is going to change forever, it’s incredibly heart-wrenching, but it paves the way for the never-ending path towards inner peace, something we all could work towards a little more.
Through counseling and guidance, we see Ruben take stock of his life and work to rebuild it. Shortly after learning more about his condition, there’s a powerful piece of advice Ruben is given by his newfound mentor Joe (Paul Raci): The goal of Ruben’s journey is not to fix his deafness, but rather, to fix his mindset. This is another one of those pills that’s not so easy to swallow and coming to terms with a tough situation is the hardest step of moving forward. Ruben feels alone in this journey, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The support system we see him find is a beautiful one, and as the deaf community welcomes Ruben, we see him learn to embrace his deafness and find a new sense of identity.
As I mentioned before, Ruben’s journey is as hard to watch as it is empowering. Marder’s film is one that clearly draws on personal experience and hits its emotional notes incredibly. Combined with Ahmed’s complete dedication to this role, this story becomes something extraordinary. A lesson to everyone that peace comes from within and even when faced with the most grim circumstances, a strong support system and belief in self can get you through anything. Other bright spots of the film include impeccable sound design, beautifully intimate cinematography and a wonderful supporting performance from Olivia Cooke. It’s rare that a filmmaker creates such a moving piece of cinema with a debut like this, but Marder has certainly cemented himself as one to watch going forward.
Sound of Metal will be available to watch on Amazon Prime on December 4th.