Sound of Metal

A deceptively simple story leads to one of the most powerful films of the year. With stunning performances, immersive sound design, and excellent direction this movie is a true piece of art.

The film tells the story of Ruben played by Riz Ahmed. He and his girlfriend Lou make up the metal band Blackgammon. They live in an RV and tour the country playing gigs. One day while setting up for a performance Ruben’s hearing drops out. He loses his hearing almost completely.

Naturally, he takes this news badly. Lous is fearful for him. He was a heroin addict and is displaying the same addict behavior he used to. She helps him get set up at a home for deaf recovering addicts. It’s here that Ruben has to make peace with his new normal and as one character puts it “learn to be deaf.”

From the opening moments this film uses sound in an arresting way. It begins with one of Blackgammon’s performances. I’m not a big metal, but this performance gripped me. The sound design focuses on the drums and the percussive power of that instrument as Ruben plays with burning intensity.

There’s a great montage of Ruben’s morning routine with very subtle emphasis on the sounds his interactions make. The sound of the coffee pot. The sound of the blender. The sound of his breathing while he exercises. It builds up in a way I hardly until Ruben’s hearing stops and the sound cuts out. It feels like being dunked in ice water. The tension is physical during this sequence. I became accustomed to the sound design and then to have it ripped away resulted in an extremely powerful empathy for what Ruben must be going through. It’s brilliant filmmaking.

The sound design is matched by superb direction from Darius Marder who also wrote the script along with Abraham Marder. He fills this story with excellent visual story telling, but mostly he focuses on faces. He allows the actors faces to tell the story. The photography is stunning as light and shadow interplay with sound to create a deeply immersive and engaging film.

Of course at the center of all of this is Riz Ahmed. He delivers a pitch perfect performance. He totally inhabits Ruben from start to finish. From the burning intensity in his eyes in the first scene to the serenity in his face in the last scene he carries every nuance of his character in his eyes. I loved this performance. I was deeply moved by this character and his journey.

I loved this movie. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime. If you’re looking for a good movie about a man coming to terms with his life and triumphing please give this movie a watch.

It’s my cup of tea. A

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