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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Sound of Metal (M) - 120 minutes

We take our hearing for granted until we can’t.

Sound of Metal charts a deeply personal journey for a young man whose girlfriend and music are his centres of gravity and who is going deaf.

Heavily tattooed drummer Ruben (Riz Ahmed) has had a troubled past.

Four years clean, he took all manner of drugs, although his poison of choice was heroin.

Then he met singer Lou (Olivia Cooke), who we later learn also didn’t have it easy and has been prone to self-harm.

The pair is on tour as a heavy metal duo, moving from town to town in a large motorhome, playing to appreciative head bangers.

They are very much in love and privately they like dancing to much more mellow music.

Increasingly, Ruben is having trouble hearing sounds, which are all muted and distorted.

He reaches crisis point.

Panicked, scared and upset, he sees a doctor, who delivers the bad news.

Ruben is intent on getting himself “fixed” and going on with the tour ... as well as working on the album he and Lou are planning to release.

Only best-case scenario is spending tens of thousands of dollars on implants, which may allow him to retain the little hearing he has left.

After a fit of destructive anger, Ruben checks into a deaf facility, led by a no-nonsense believer in Joe (Paul Raci).

He’s a Vietnam vet and former alcoholic, whose self-help program requires detachment from the outside world.

That also means cutting ties with Lou.

Although deeply troubled, extracting a promise from Lou that she will wait for him, Ruben commits to a stint as part of an interactive deaf community.

Sound of Metal is a warts and all portrayal of life irrevocably changed.

It is a highly accomplished piece, headlined by a searing performance from Riz Ahmed.

He, and the film as a whole, carry a strong feeling of authenticity.

Just when he appears to have conquered his demons and his life is in a good place, Ruben’s new world order is shattered.

We see the psychological toll through Ahmed’s mesmeric depiction of Ruben.

While achieving a level of stability, Ruben continues to yearn for his old life.

Instead, what Joe is trying to teach him is to find inner peace through stillness.

It is not only Ahmed who impresses.

As Lou, Olivia Cooke prevails with her “natural” showing, while Paul Raci is straight as a die as Joe.

But Sound of Metal wouldn’t be the film it is without the attentive detail to capturing muffled, distorted and high-pitched sounds that is the work of supervising sound editor Nicolas Becker and his team.

What an extraordinary job they have done.

They give us – the audience – a window into the terrifying world of someone who is suddenly thrust into an environment which hitherto was far beyond his comprehension.

How to cope with the new normal and move on becomes the essence of Sound of Metal.

Co-writer and director Darius Marder (who wrote the piece with his brother, Abraham, from a story by Darius and Derek Cianfrance) has crafted a special work.

Rated M, Sound of Metal scores an 8 out of 10.

It is on limited cinematic release and available on Amazon Prime.


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