“A heavy-metal drummer’s life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing.” -IMDB
In order to explain the lense through which I watched this movie, I have to give you a little background about my husband, Mike (whose consent I have to share this information). Let me clarify…
About eight years ago, Mike woke up one morning to find that he had lost a significant portion of his hearing. After tests, we would find that almost all of his hearing was gone in his left ear and about 50% was gone in his right. For over a year, doctors tried to determine what had caused this sudden loss and how to try to get the hearing to return, including putting him on intense and detrimental regiments of medications. It was an extremely difficult time for Mike and everyone who loves him. His hearing eventually leveled off, meaning it never came back, but he (thankfully and knock on wood) has not lost any more. However, even after the worst of it, there are still times when it affects his daily life. For instance, we pick which side of the table to eat at so that people are on his good ear. Or if a restaurant (back when we could go to them) is too loud, it’s hard for him to interact because he can’t decipher singular voices within all of the noise.
So, with all of that being said, Mike and I sat down to watch Sound of Metal, the story of Ruben, a heavy metal drummer and recovering addict, who suddenly loses his hearing. Given the added layer of him being in recovery and his whole career (including his relationship with bandmate/girlfriend) being tied to his hearing, this loss shakes his sense of identity to its very core. He is introduced to a community which combines the needs of both the deaf and hearing impaired with those of recovering addicts. This community is run by the incredible Joe, who is tough, but fair and eternally supportive. Over the course of the film, Ruben struggles with which path to follow: to continue chasing his former identity or to accept his new reality.
This film touches on a number of subjects including ableism, addiction, recovery, depression, and co-dependence, but confronts each of them with tenderness and compassion. Mike noted that those who haven’t experienced hearing loss and/or the use of cochlear implants (which Mike tested but did not decide to use), may think that the sound effects are too dramatic, but he argues they accurately reflect his experience. The performances by every single actor are absolutely stunning, and if Riz Ahmed is not nominated for an Oscar, I will write a strongly-worded letter (I was going to say riot, but maybe not the time…eh?).
Although Mike and I have a personal connection with the subject matter which (positively) colored our viewing of the film, it is an undeniably beautiful movie. And more than anything, it’s a film about identity, self-discovery, and acceptance and who can’t identify with that?
Rating: I asked Mike to give me his rating and he gave an 8 out of 10 Claire Bears. Again, because we have personal ties to it, we thought it was an incredible movie, but we can see it being a little too heavy or slowly-paced for some to enjoy.
If you like this movie, you should also see: Three Colours: Blue, I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Streaming: Amazon Prime
With: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci
Directed By: Darius Marder