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Sound of Metal

Sound of Metal
A powerhouse, Oscar-worthy performance from Riz Ahmed is the center piece of a riveting story of rehabilitation and redemption from 2019 called Sound of Metal, an emotionally manipulative story from the creative forces behind The Place Beyond the Pines and Blue Valentine.

Ahmed plays Ruben Stone, a rock and roll drummer who backs up his girlfriend Lou, who is completely thrown when he discovers he is beginning to lose his hearing. A panicking Ruben does some research and learns about surgical implants that could restore his hearing but they are a financial impossibility, so he is eventually guided to a rehab facility for the hearing impaired that he initially fights tooth and nail, but just as he begins to make inroads at the facility, Ruben makes a couple of unexpected choices that alter his destiny and the viewer doesn't see coming at all.

Director and co-screenwriter Darius Marder is to be credited for providing a very different and often heartbreaking look at a person dealing with a handicap. Most films about people dealing with a handicap like blindness or deafness, the character is either born with the condition or the condition has been diagnosed prior to the beginning of the story. It's absolutely heartbreaking to witness a rock and roll musician onstage and his initial reaction to what is happening to him. This is one of the first films I've seen where the character is actually observed experiencing what is happening to him for the first time and Marder and his co-screenwriters take the viewer inside what is happening by Ruben as the sound that Ruben is (or isn't) hearing is the sound we are hearing. With the assistance of an expert sound team, Marder allows us to vicariously experience what Ruben is experiencing and, often, it's quite unsettling.

The scenes at the rehab facility have an initial familiarity and even predictability to them until Marder and company limit what the viewer hears to what Ruben and all of the other patients here. There's a lovely moment where Ruben is participating in an AA meeting and we see the patients do the Serenity Prayer in sign language. The viewer is left out of a lot of what Ruben experiences at the facility and that is no accident. Marder wants the viewer to walk in Ruben's shoes, as it were. I loved the computer screen that the head of the facility initially uses to communicate with Ruben that writes out everything on the screen so that Ruben can ready what he's saying. I also loved when Ruben is first added to the chores list for the facility and his chore is "Learn how to be deaf."

The story is well-constructed with just enough surprises to keep the viewer on their toes, but it is Riz Ahmed's sizzling performance in the starring role that keeps this story on all four burners. Ever since I first saw Ahmed as Jake Gyllenhaal's assistant in Nightcrawler, I knew this guy was a movie star in the making and now finally given center stage, he delivers in spades. He receives solid support from Olivia Cooke as Lou, Paul Raci as the head of the rehab, and Mathieu Amalric as Lou's father. A riveting motion picture with an extraordinary performance from the leading man providing the meat. Needless to say, the work from the sound team is perfection and was also impressed by the lack of a music score, which was not missed at all.