Sound of Metal
Directed by: Darius Marder
Screenplay by: Darius Marder and Abraham Marder
Story by: Darius Marder and Derek Cianfrance
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Lauren Ridloff, Mathieu Amalric
If you’ll allow me, I’d like to get a bit scientific for a moment.
Seven senses define the human experience that makes each of us unique: sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste, balance, and movement. Each of these senses, a reaction to exterior stimuli, is a distinctive trait of a human body. When they all work together, they make our world tick in harmony.
Darius Marder’s “Sound of Metal” puts us in the shoes of a man whose harmony becomes lost when he is faced with the lost sense of hearing. Having been consistently exposed to loud music as a drummer, Ruben Stone, played with great aplomb by Riz Ahmed (“Star Wars: Rogue One”), hits his music like no other.
Much like a heartbeat, Ruben is defined by those notes, drumming to the beat of his own tune.
As Marder introduces us to Ruben, we slowly see his world come into shape: the life on the road, the life of a partier with money as tight as can be. Interestingly, he and his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) live in an RV, their home mobile enough to get them from each gig; the RV represents a confinement of sorts that plays with the diminishing and eventually diminished hearing loss that Ruben confronts.
When his hearing completely goes, the absence of sound is quite frightening. As someone who has suffered from hearing problems, I can relate, but not to the degree that the character experiences – loss of hearing can debilitate.
Ruben rationalizes that he can fix the issue, but mentally he can’t process the loss of his hearing, and that’s where Joe comes in. Aside from Ahmed’s performance, Paul Raci as Joe was singularly the most important performance of the film: to have to re-learn to live a life with a deficiency is not a prison sentence if you embrace your other senses; if you trust your other senses.
That’s the film’s primary theme – trust.
There are several deeper points in the film, but none was more powerful than when Ruben uses his gifts to help teach others with his same condition. The film doesn’t discriminate either: Joe’s program features others far younger than Ruben.
The film’s crux is that Ruben still wants to return to his life, a desire to use his gifts, to be with Lou, who cannot be with him as he participates in the program.
The technical aspects make the journey all the more powerful, and in the times we live in now, it is challenging that most cannot enjoy this film in a theater. By no means, I’m suggesting that you run to your theater to catch it if it is playing by you now. It’s just that the sound design that defines the film is so viscerally engaging that it screams for the best in theatrical sound systems and not a soundbar at home.
I digress, though.
In a timely moment, the story adroitly uses the consequences of our actions to define Ruben’s journey in the latter half of the second and then the third act. While Ahmed’s performance remains strong throughout these scenes, some of the story’s decisions are questionable. Although the decisions’ outcome is ultimately a circular affirmation of his journey, it lessens the impact.
The drive behind the character defines the circular motion of the film: Ruben lives his life to the beat of his own drum.
For that, “Sound of Metal” is Recommended.