David Sigura’s review published on Letterboxd:
Sound of Metal is a blistering portrait of someone suddenly losing their hearing, and while its moments hit hard, I found myself more disconnected from the film than I’d have liked.
I do want to praise it though - most of its drama hinges on its performances, and the cast shines. Riz Ahmed is an incredible actor and showcases his subtlety here in ways that make your heart break. Olivia Cooke is great as well as she always is, but it’s deaf community leader Joe (played by Paul Raci) who steals the show, who maintains a calm, level-headed demeanor while piercing you with truths. His character is an excellent example of the complicated relationship the deaf community have with the outside world, as well as within themselves.
The reasons I felt disconnected feel almost superficial in the face of this subject matter that was, all in all, handled very well. But those things still matter to me as a viewer. I found the cinematography itself unengaging; the first 20 minutes set itself up with a subdued style that I was into, only to fall into a series of handheld shots that never really change things up for a majority of the movie. I will say however, the sound design is excellent, with some of the most poignant points in the film coming from the introduction, removal, and distortion of sound.
For a movie that hinges it’s title on the metal genre, there feels like there’s very little connection between Ruben and his music after he loses his hearing. There’s one particular moment that’s nice where he calls back to his drumming in order to find his communication style, but I never really felt any anguish or despair toward the loss of his musical ability - for a musician to lose their hearing, that really is the end of the world. He mostly feels disconcerted due to his inability to resume the “gypsy” life and the loss of his ability to connect to his loved one, which is completely understandable. But working, touring musicians in a niche genre, that’s their life. I wanted to see more of a connection to the music, to the metal genre in particular, to drumming in general, but these fall by the wayside.
Edit: but at the same time, I find myself coming back around to it again...its remarkable focus on stillness and Ruben’s desire to cling to the way things were make the final moments of the film incredibly powerful. This may be a case where I personally might have preferred a different movie, but the movie we got fulfills it’s purpose.