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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Feb 11, 2021



‘SOUND OF METAL’ is about a heavy metal drummer, Ruben (Riz Ahmed, a British-Pakistani actor who’s the first Asian and first Muslim to win the Emmy best actor award for the mini series “The Night Of”), who loses his sense of hearing. 

He and his singer girlfriend, Lou (Olivia Cooke, “Ready Player One”, “Bates Motel”), live an easygoing life on the road while in a bus that they drive around cross country to do shows. 

The test on his ears shows Ruben that his hearing is impaired and he can only hear about 20 percent. It’s also predicted to get worse quickly. He can get surgery for a cochlear implant, but it’s very expensive. 

At first, Ruben is in denial and wants to go on with their musical tour, but he is a former heroin addict and although he’s been sober for four years, Lou is worried about his condition. 

He is referred to a house for deaf people run by Joe (Paul Raci), himself a former alcoholic whose ears were damaged by an explosion in the Vietnam War. 

Initially, Ruben rejects it, but Lou eventually succeeds in convincing him to try staying with Joe. 

He then meets the other deaf members of the community and is introduced to Diane, who teaches sign language to kids. 

Ruben joins their class and soon settles well with all of them, slowly adapting to his situation and even giving the kids some drumming lessons. 

But his desire to regain his hearing and get back his former life has not left him. He sells his bus and music equipment to get money for his ear operation.  But will regaining his sense of hearing bring back his old life with Lou? 

What the film does most effectively is placing us right in the very shoes of the lead character and the deaf experience. 

The sound mix is a technical achievement and must have been designed in great detail to give us viewers a palpable auditory feel with the sound going totally out, or becoming distorted, muffled, unintelligible. 

The aim is for the viewer to recreate vividly Ruben’s personal journey and fully understand the depth of what he is going through.

There have been many films about deafness, like “Children of a Lesser God” that gave real deaf actress Marlee Matlin the 1986 Oscar best actress award and she went on to do more work on TV, like “The West Wing”, which she did for seven seasons. 

Other films with deaf characters are “Music Within” (2007), the true story of a soldier who lost his hearing in the Vietnam War, and “The Hammer” (2010), the true story of deaf wrestler Matt Hamill. 

What sets “Sound of Metal” apart is Riz Ahmed’s beautifully nuanced performance that makes him go through an entire range of emotions from rage and frustration to defiance and acceptance.

There are just some elements, though, that we cannot fully comprehend. 

Why did Joe feel betrayed when Ruben chose to go on with his surgery? And what really prompted Lou’s change of heart when Ruben visits her in Europe? 

Some bits of information also seem they were just added as an afterthought, like the revelation that Ruben grew up without a father and that Lou was estranged with her own dad and her mom killed herself. 

If the film were better written, it would have been more affecting, but Ruben’s well acted personal journey is enough to hold the film together.