Director; Darius Marder. Starring; Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci. Color. Rated ‘R’. 120 minutes.
How does one deal with the fact that everything they love most is taken away? I am not talking about a loved one passing away. I am talking about losing the thing that you are most passionate about in life. In “Sound of Metal”, Riz Ahmed (best know for “The Night of…”) plays a talented musician that loses his ability to preform the skill he is best at.
A passionate drummer alongside his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) singing, the two are rising up in the indie rock scene. The duo, known as ‘BlackGammon’, are traveling from coast to coast in a streamliner. Starting off in California, New York is the ultimate destination. Ruben and Lou have a routine. He does push ups, drinks a fruit shake and wakes up his girl to get ready to hit the road for the next gig. The experience of soundlessness begins when they play a small club in New York. The ultimate end goal is taken away the second it is achieved.
Ruben tries to drum through it despite scoring 24 on a hearing test, resulting in the doctor telling the young man his hearing is shot. Being in a struggling band living out of a van does not exactly lend to a person with the financial ability to pay for an expensive procedure in hopes of keeping one of his five senses. Refusing to give up, Ruben insists he can play by memory and rhythm during the biggest show the band has done. Doesn’t exactly work and it destroys his hearing even more.
The next step for Ruben is a facility for the deaf that specializes in helping people who were not born deaf. The initial meeting has Ruben rejecting this whole situation. The man is also dealing with drugs issues as he lives in the music world and this place is basically a rehab facility in which his girl Lou cannot be around. When the two have a blow up Ruben goes back to the facility in hopes of salvaging any semblance of a life. Joe (Paul Raci) runs the place and focuses more on fixing the mind instead of the ears.
Obviously if you or anybody you know that went through the experience of an atmosphere like rehab, and this includes physical rehab as well, then obviously there will be an initial push back for any individual. But Ruben begins to embrace the experience and even starts to teach some of the younger kids there how to drum by using the feeling that resonates through the floor off of paint canisters. It brings joy to everyone there when this guy is tearing it up. His known world is gone and his girl has no desire for round two in a relationship, but Ruben finds just how amazing the little things in life can be.
“Sound of Metal” has a lot going for it, but it is not perfect. Riz Ahmed is phenomenal, particularly during the breakup scene with Olivia Cooke. Cinematographer Daniel Bouquet also brings in a look of urgency visually that is similar to how the character feels as sound is slowly going away. I could definitely lose the random cuts of beautiful stuff for no reason, but I don’t know who that decision is on. This is also a fresh take on the experience of losing what seems to be everything at the time in your life no matter what that is. I will say the begging is very rushed and the film does not find itself until the second act. But overall, “Sound of Metal” is a very inspiring picture and one of the best that I have seen in 2020.