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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.

Sep 14, 2021



WE’VE JUST seen an Apple TV musical-comedy-drama that made us laugh and cry, “CODA”, an acronym that stands for Child of Deaf Adults and a remake of a 2014 French film, “La Familie Belier”.

It stars the very lovely and talented Emilia Jones, best known for the TV series “Locke and Key”. She plays Ruby Rossi, the only member in their family who has the ability to hear.

Her parents, Jackie (Marlee Matlin, the only hearing impaired actor who has won as Oscar best actress) and Frank (Troy Kotsur), as well as older brother Leo (Daniel Durant), are all hearing impaired (even in real life.) 

Her family is in the fishing business and they live in a coastal town in Massachusetts. 

The movie starts with her fishing in a big boat with her dad and brother while she is singing to a song being played on radio. She is a high school senior and because she wakes up at 3 AM to help in fishing, she ends up falling asleep in class. 

She takes the audition to be part of their school choir after she heard that her crush, Miles (Fredia Peelo), will also join it. But when it’s her turn to sing, she gets scared and escapes. 

She later returns to their choir master, Mister Villalobos or Mr. V (Eugene Derbe), and admits she’s ill at ease with people because she has always been bullied in school for having a deaf family. 

Mr. V is so impressed upon hearing her voice and tells her she’s gifted with good vocal pipes. He pairs her with Miles for them to do a duet for a coming school show. Since they have no rapport at all, Mr. V orders them to practice on their own together. 

Ruby asks Miles to practice in her home and while they’re singing, they hear her parents making love so noisily in their room. 

Embarrassed, she tells Miles to leave and in school, she is humiliated when her classmates make fun of her because Miles obviously told them about her horny parents’ rowdy sex life while they were rehearsing their song. 

Miles says sorry, saying he actually told about it to only one person and it’s that person who told about it to their classmates. 

She ignores him repeatedly but he tells her he actually envies their family as they’re very loving to each other, the very opposite of his own family. 

Eventually, she accepts his apology, continue with their practice and she takes him to her favorite place and they go swimming in a beautiful lake. 

Mr. V also encourages Ruby to take the auditions for scholarship at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. 

She is hesitant at first, but Mr. V even volunteers to give her private lessons to train her voice. 

It’s easy to see where this is going and when the film stays on that course, it’s a delight to watch.  Also involving is the subplot about her budding romance with Miles. 

But when the movie forays into the labor problems of the fishermen, the narrative flow lags, specially when it dwells on his dad organizing their own cooperative and Ruby becoming her dad’s personal interpreter in convincing the other fishermen to join them and help them get it off the ground.

The film’s climax is Ruby going with her family to Boston to take the audition at Berklee College.

 When her family is forbidden to enter the audition venue, Ruby becomes nervous and can’t sing properly. Her folks then secretly go to the balcony to watch her.

Ruby sees them and is encouraged to give her best while translating the lyrics of her audition song (“Both Sides Now”) into sign language so her family can understand what she is singing. 

This is most certainly a very emotional moment for us. The rest of the film and the final scenes are all very uplifting.

It works as a coming-of-age story for a 17-year old girl who is becoming an adult and has to choose whether to stay home as her deaf family’s interpreter or leave to pursue a career in music. 

The film is uniformly well acted, from the deaf parents and brother to her sweetly encouraging and enthusiastic vocal coach. 

It’s a sure crowd pleaser as you’ll surely be able to relate with Ruby’s family and both their hilarious and touching moments. 

But the film surely belongs to its breakout British star, Emilia Jones, who can be both tender and tough as the need arises as the underdog heroine who’s worth rooting for. 

We won’t be surprised if she’d get more assignments in Hollywood in the future as she’s a truly an acting and singing discovery. 

Director and co-scriptwriter Sian Heder (best known for “Tallulah”) deserves praise for breathing fresh new life into the material that might be predictable but he succeeds in making “CODA” an emotional powerhouse that easily connects to the hearts of viewers.