To lose the sense of hearing is just something I couldn't begin to fathom, such a vital sense in our day-to-day lives as members of the human race. There's been plenty of films that feature deaf characters however, Darius Marder's Sound of Metal may just be one of the first I've seen that brings an audience so close to how it must feel to go through such a drastic change.

One half of the metal duo 'Blackgammon', Ruben (Riz Ahmed) along with his girlfriend, Lou (Olivia Cooke), is looking to make a mark in the music industry. Travelling in an RV together from gig to gig, Ruben one night begins to lose his hearing, a visit to the doctor later confirming that his hearing is deteriorating rapidly and he must avoid exposure to loud noises. Learning of his situation, Lou takes him to stay at a rural shelter for deaf recovering addicts where he must learn to live with his life-changing condition and the possibility of a life outside of music.
What Sound of Metal manages to accomplish in its depiction of deafness and the struggles of coming to terms with it as a man whose life and passion revolves around being able to hear is nothing short of astonishing. Darius Marder delivers a film full of emotion and compassion that absolutely floored me by the time the credits started to roll, his decisions on how to convey the stages of acceptance for Ruben's deafness being a particular masterstroke. 

For instance, the lack of subtitles when he first starts attending meetings at the shelter is a sign of denial towards his condition and lack of acceptance, along with frustration at his lack of progress in adapting to a new way of living life. As the film progresses, Ruben's acceptance and progress in sign language sees subtitles appear more frequently and brings us closer to Ruben on his journey, encapsulating just how much thought went into telling this story and making it so empathic.

The sound design of Sound of Metal is all about the details, such as switching from audible sounds that we can hear as the audience to the muffled sounds as Ruben hears it, making for some utterly heartbreaking moments throughout. 

Riz Ahmed has built quite an impressive career for himself yet still, rather surprisingly, manages to go under the radar most of the time. That is surely about to change after awards season where he is deservedly getting so much recognition because he is utterly fantastic in Sound of Metal, his role as Ruben not too dissimilar from his role as Zed in Mogul Mowgli, a film which also saw the main character's music career suffer from a debilitating condition. In a role where he has to adapt to life without sound, Ahmed does so much great work with his eyes, the pain and anguish there for all to see as Ruben has to give up what he loves as he loses his hearing.

Olivia Cooke manages to shine once again in the supporting role of Lou, her career really beginning to blossom into something special while Paul Raci delivers a nuanced performance as Joe, the man who runs the shelter, both having a few emotionally charged scenes to share with Ahmed. The powerful turns from the actors and the care from the filmmakers that went into making this such a thoughtful piece of cinema really does have a majorly successful pay-off in the end, the final scene nailing Sound of Metal a place amongst my best of the year without a doubt.

Verdict: ★★★★★


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