Sound Of Metal movie cast: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Mathieu Amalric
Sound Of Metal movie director: Darius Marder
Sound Of Metal movie rating: Three stars
In his wonderful book, The Art Of Stillness, Pico Iyer writes that being able to be still ‘is a way of falling in love with the world, and everything in it’. This is almost exactly what Joe (Raci), leader of a deaf community tells Ruben (Ahmed) when the latter discovers that he is losing his hearing. This would be terrible for any of us, but for Ruben who plays the drums professionally, it is the end of his chosen way of life – the music he creates, and the constant company of the love of his life, fellow band member Lou (Cooke). Be still, stop struggling, and things will get better, says Joe. Where will the drummer, former addict, ‘four years clean’, go from here?
The deaf commune, in a remote woody outpost, has strict rules. No phone, no cars, no getting in touch with the outside world. More than anything else, the interactions between Ruben and the doughty Joe who lip-reads, like everyone else around him, lead us into challenging territory. Is the only way to deal with such a loss is to accept it, and build a life around it? Or is it okay to look for alternatives, which could involve invasive surgery and cochlear implants?
To begin with, I was a bit taken aback by the barely concealed disapproval Joe displays at Ruben’s reluctance to fall irretrievably into a life where not being able to hear is a permanent aspect. But the film, as it winds its way to a point where Ruben can hear somewhat better and reconnect with his girl-friend, is making a larger point about self-realisation. Ahmed is terrific as the man who has no idea how to stay in one place: his arc from restlessness to restfulness is entirely believable.
A few passages are underlined more than necessary, and the complex notion of how to define disability, and the ease with which sign-language can be taught and learnt, is explored rather jauntily. But what the film does with a great deal of feeling is to tell us that nothing is forever. People grow out of each of other, and that’s fine. A kind of music can sound cacophonous to some of us, and that’s fine too. Being still is being able to hear ourselves, from all the way inside.