Sound of Metal

Sound of Metal ★★★★½

I have a cochlear implant so this film hits close to home. The power of silence is something I cherish daily, and Sound of Metal beautifully mirrors the impact of sounds, big and small, and how much we take them for granted. 

Sound of Metal exposes the very real divide between two distinct cultures — hearing and deaf. As Joe explains to Ruben, the deaf do not treat their disability as a handicap. They use the silence as a strength to further their dreams in a deaf world. Cochlear implants or any other device that bring hearing into a silent environment is considered a threat to them. Joe did the right thing kicking Ruben out — you can wish folks like Ruben well but his ideology will disrupt their inclusive world. You can’t have it both ways. 

The film takes a bit too many liberties by skipping a few crucial steps regarding the activation process. For one, regaining your hearing is a very gradual process and a frustrating one. We see Ruben wandering around the streets and at parties and struggling to comprehend the sounds feeding through his ears. This is true; the distorted voices and metallic clangs can really grind you down. 

But what the film doesn’t capture is the methodical process of rehabilitation. We do not see audiologist explain this to him — it’s as if Ruben gets activated and is thrown out on the streets to fend for himself. This isn’t true to life. Cochlear implants are a gift of hearing, but it never arrives instantaneously. But maybe this is in Ruben’s future. He’s beaten down when we last see him, but he acknowledges the solace the silence has given him. He finally knows how to sit still.

Thankfully, the film leaves the ending open for us to interpret how Ruben will live his life with his new disability. Will he go to hearing therapy to better adapt with his implants, thereby reinserting him back to the world of hearing? Or will he give up the devices and go back to Joe and find comfort in silence and inclusive community? There is no wrong answer here, and the film knows it. He can be happy with either direction he chooses, because even though Ruben has challenges ahead of him, he is not one to give up.

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