Sound of Metal

Sound of Metal ★★★★★

Powerful character work.

Although it originally premiered at TIFF in the fall of 2019, this 120-minute drama by director Darius Marder didn't see a wide release until its Amazon Prime debut 14 months later in December of 2020. The R-rated story shares the story of a heavy metal drummer who is forced to reevaluate his entire life when loses his hearing.

But that summary is under-selling what a powerful and effective screenplay this is, with Riz Ahmed leading things beautifully. There's such a realistic pain to his anguish and stubbornness... as he's forced to reconcile his dreams with his new reality. His anger feels so raw and meaningful - as we're literally watching him process the death of his assumed-future in real time. Would you react any better?

The emotional performance is far and away the best of the British Pakistani's rising career: it might even be my favorite of the year, and should easily secure Ahmed plenty of award nominations. Meanwhile, Olivia Cooke is heartbroken but patient as the supportive girlfriend while Paul Raci is sublime as Riz's deaf mentor, who struggles to keep his new ward on the right path.

As someone with deaf relatives, who's also worked extensively with recovering addicts - I appreciated this movie's portrayal of those respective communities, as it felt authentic, respectful, and most importantly: humanizing. Riz's personal journey into these seldom-seen groups is also interesting and inspiring - showcasing a different, slower, and perhaps even better way of life for him. His eventual decision for cochlear implant surgery is seen as a betrayal to this new existence - culminating with a bittersweet final act.

The sound-design and sporadic use of subtitles for the sign-language is immersive and appropriately disorienting - putting the viewer squarely in Ahmed's uncomfortable shoes, or, ahem - ears. The recovering heroin addict soon discovers that his ability to hear is an even stronger addiction. I've never seen the loss of a sense characterized as an addiction to recover from - but it works so perfectly here.

A cautionary tale about addiction, regret, and finding answers where you least expect them: "Sound of Metal" is a sincere exploration of loss and new beginnings; anchored by a moving performance. One of 2020s absolute best - I thought this was AMAZING.