Will Steele’s review published on Letterboxd:
After being blown away by Mogul Mowgli, my expectations for Sound of Metal were very high as Riz Ahmed is making superb choices in demanding projects as of late. On paper, Sound of Metal seemed concurrent with Riz’s recent track record and its persistent run from critics prizes to multiple Oscar nominations gave me even more hope. Thankfully, Sound of Metal delivers and then some.
The stakes are laid out swiftly. This won’t be a tale of rock n roll excess, but rather of the consequences wrought by that lifestyle. It’s hard to know why but as this film begins you trust that you’re on a journey of fulfilment. You know you’re in safe hands. And then Paul Raci enters and changes the temperature of the entire film with the sheer warmth of his presence: he is a pure embodiment of trust and care.
Any bewilderment felt by Riz’s character Ruben Stone is shared with the audience but only we can recognise how Raci’s mentor character Joe represents a chance for rehabilitation. It is Ruben’s journey from hesitancy to embrace of this idea which forms the soul of the film. Sound of Metal has been rightly praised for how effectively the sound mix simulates the sense of disorientation felt by Ruben throughout. It’s impressively evocative and places the audience right in Ruben’s shoes giving us reason to understand his hesitation to accept help.
Darius Marder is clearly a wildly generous director giving his actors time and space to ruminate in their character’s emotions. Marder often widens out after close moments of quiet intimacy just to remind us how immersive those intimate moments truly are. Ultimately he and his co-writers have crafted a beautifully tempered portrait of reconciling life’s difficulties and rehabilitating how you think when you can’t change how you are. Sound of Metal excels in exploring just how difficult it can feel to be at peace with yourself whatever your circumstances may be.