Riz Ahmed Shines as Deaf Drummer in Sound of Metal Streaming on Prime Video
Written By Matthew Sadowski
Riz Ahmed has had a fascinating string of roles in the past several years, with highlights including a seedy car crash journalist in Nightcrawler, and an Imperial pilot turned tortured defector in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. With Sound of Metal, Ahmed now gets his first Oscar nod for portraying Ruben Stone, a hard-rocking metal drummer who begins to lose his hearing. Disabilities in movies and television can be a tricky subject matter to portray, but Sound of Metal manages to tell a deeply human story in a respectful and even immersive way.
Ruben tours the country in a beat-up, old RV, as part of a metal duo with his singer girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). The morning after a usual, fiercely loud show, Ruben realizes that he can hear almost nothing. Without telling Lou about his condition, he immediately gets examined, and is told that he only has 20% of his hearing left. What hearing he had, the doctor (Tom Kemp) explains, cannot be regained, and he must preserve what he has left at all costs. Ruben stubbornly plays another gig that night, but is disastrously unable to follow along with Lou, and his condition is revealed. Against Ruben’s wishes, Lou checks her boyfriend into a home for people learning to transition into living with deafness, run by the no-nonsense but deeply compassionate Joe (Paul Raci). Lou returns to live with her father until Ruben can adjust, but he is determined to get money by any means in order to pay for a cochlear implant and return to Lou and metal.
As opposed to a lot of media that will simply tell you about a character’s condition and never actually depicts what the character experiences, Sound of Metal opts to let us hear scenes from Ruben’s POV. The viewer experiences deeply softened audio when Ruben first suffers hearing loss, and eventually dead silence when he completely loses it. Consequently, much of the film is in sign language with subtitles. We become just as jarred by the change in sound as Ruben is: how often does movie audio become muffled? With Oscar nominations for Ahmed and Raci’s performances, as well as for Best Picture, Screenplay, Editing, and Sound, Sound of Metal is a tour de force that is well worth the 2 hour runtime.
Sound of Metal
Directed by: Darius Marder
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Lauren Ridloff
Streaming on: Prime Video