“Sound of Metal” is about a heavy metal drummer losing and coping with his hearing loss. While at first glance this film intends to tell a story about a man’s passion for drumming and how it has become impacted by his hearing loss, it actually tells quite a different story that throws you for a loop.
Editing: This film, in addition to being up for Best Picture for the 93rd Academy Awards, is also nominated for Best Film Editing and it’s clear why. While the visuals are fairly standard, the film plays a lot with audio and helps us relate to Ruben (Riz Ahmed), the heavy metal drummer more. The audio will dull or cut out in specific spots like when he’s playing the drums, showing his frustration and making the situation easier to understand than just telling us that he can’t hear.
Acting: Ahmed usually does a good job as a supporting character, like in “Nightcrawler,” but this is his first time in the lead role and he does a tremendous job, especially towards the end when he’s at his lowest point since his loss of hearing. The other characters also do well in their performances, but it is most apparent with Ruben since he doesn’t interact a lot with other people.
False Advertising: Though drumming is a big part of Ruben’s life, we don’t get to see why or how he plans on continuing being a drummer with his hearing loss. There is a moment in the film where he said he’ll look for visual cues, but a lot of discussion about him even being a musician is forgotten as he starts adjusting to life without hearing. In fact, he hardly even plays the drums past the second half of the film. Instead, we see him interacting with kids and learning sign language, which is great for showing us how he is adjusting, but if the film is about him continuing to pursue drumming, it’s pretty important to see how he gets around that.
Characters: This movie has a problem with the supporting characters, especially Ruben’s girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). We see them interact with each other and learn an important aspect of their characters surrounding their history with drugs, but then we don’t see Lou for almost the rest of the film past the first act. This is important because Ruben is constantly stating how she is his rock and how much he loves her, but we don’t know enough about her or their relationship to know why. For 90% of the film, we only know that Lou is a loving girlfriend with a vague troubled past, but it’s hard to care about her when she’s only on screen for a few minutes. The movie tries to tell more about her later in the film, but it’s too late by that point. This is also a problem with the other characters, like Ruben’s counselor, but Lou gets it the worst.
Silence: As stated earlier, this film likes to play with the audio a lot. As a result, the longer the film goes, the less noise we hear. I can certainly appreciate this choice, because I like the subtle change of the first scene being a heavy metal concert with shouting and music all around you, to the last scene being nothing at all. However, because a lot of the movie is quiet it can turn some people away just because we are used to some music playing during films. It also may give off the impression that not a lot is happening.
The main thing to focus on in “Sound of Metal” is the lifestyle of a deaf person. The film devotes a lot of time to show that being deaf isn’t something that is wrong or needs to be fixed. Instead, the film shows the ins and outs of living without hearing, but it can be misleading at first glance when the film seems to portray itself as being about a musician dealing with being deaf. Both stories are interesting, especially because it’s rare to see a film like this, but it throws you for a loop when the story offered doesn’t end up being the story told. That being said, the film we get is still entertaining and interesting enough to keep your attention.
Rating: Meets Expectations