Sound of Metal (2020; Darius Marder)
By Daniel Barnes
*Now playing in select theaters and on Amazon Prime.
Riz Ahmed delivers a solid performance as Ruben, a heavy metal drummer dealing with hearing loss in this otherwise pedestrian therapy drama.
“Punk Rock Domesticity”
As the film opens, recovering drug addict Ruben and his bandmate and girlfriend Lou live a life of punk rock domesticity in their touring van. Days begin with the sounds of fresh-brewed coffee and end with the piercing sounds of guitar feedback.
However, that domesticity gets shattered when Ruben starts experiencing random periods of hearing loss. After initially trying to hide his condition, he visits a doctor, who informs Ruben that the next step is total deafness. Fearing a relapse, Lou takes Ruben to a support center overseen by the patient yet firm Joe (an excellent Paul Raci). While Ruben still believes he can recover his hearing, Joe informs him that he’s there to fix his head, not his ears.
“Therapy Movie Tropes”
From there, the film hits all the typical and tired therapy movie tropes. Ruben refuses to accept his fate, and so he doesn’t fit in at the center. And then he just does fit in, only to falter again when he discovers that Lou moved on without him. The conflict is relatively dry and subdued, although writer-director Darius Marder and his sound team do an excellent job putting us inside Ruben’s head. Desperate to reunite with Lou, Ruben sells his possessions and gets Cochlear implants, which the film depicts as a waking nightmare.
The late arrival of Mathieu Almaric as Lou’s father, and the memories of the far superior The Diving Bell and the Butterfly that he conjures, does not make Sound of Metal look any more substantial.