Ruben (Riz Ahmed) is A drummer of an indie band with his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). They are a metal band and have live together in their tour van playing gigs when suddenly Ruben is struck with rapid hearing loss. After learning this hearing loss is rapidly deteriorating his life is turned upside down and begins to compromise his addiction recovery. In this hard-hitting drama about overcoming obstacles and living with tragedy, ‘Sound of Metal’ has quickly become one of my favorite films this year with an outstanding performance by Riz Ahmed.
At first glance at only the poster, I immediately assumed this film was going to take notes from ‘Whiplash’ which centered around a drummer similar to Rueben in his need for drumming. What I realized after the first initial scene was that this film was not about the drumming, it was about addiction. The substitution of drumming for drugs in Rubens life is critical for his success in being clean, so when his hearing starts to go, everything in his life goes as well. His support network is completely reliant on Lou, but the film twists that nurturing relationship with Lou to potentially enabling Ruben into toxic behaviors rather than true acceptance of his situation. The chemistry and acting between Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke is real and heartbreaking, and is what sells you on the films premise from their first scene together.
Rueben believes the only way to get better is to fix his hearing. After learning there is a surgery that can stop the damage done to his hearing, nothing else matters in his head other than getting the money for the surgery. He ends up going to a center for the deaf, being run by Joe (Paul Rici) who rather than trying to cure deafness, works with patients to accept their deafness. This opens a new path for Rueben to truly understand himself and I loved Paul Rici’s performance. Riz Ahmed I believe deserves a nomination for best actor and could very well win it with this career-defining performance.
The film is heartfelt, powerful, and one of the best films of the year. It is a triumph of the human spirit story that doesn’t shy away from hard topics, themes, and is true to it’s characters. I really loved this movie and think everyone should check it out.