Nerdlocker Movie Review: Sound of Metal

“The deaf believe there is nothing wrong. The hearing believe something needs to be fixed.” – Anonymous

While I am not deaf, maybe tone deaf at times, I still empathize with the main character of this film. He is a drummer of a heavy metal band. I have been a metalhead for nearly twenty years. I understand the obsession of live shows; the need for sweat and yes sometimes bloodshed can be insatiable. There is a camaraderie in singing along to a kind of music that so many simply don’t understand. It’s like a language all our own. It is visceral and aggressive but never pointless. Jumping and screaming and being in that moment with all of your being is just a beautiful experience. I’ve been going to shows since I was fifteen.

In the beginning I felt impervious (as do most teenagers) to damage or if I did get hurt I knew it would heal quickly. I’m thirty-one now and the wear and tear of not only those shows but life itself is starting to catch up. I no longer get in the pits, I don’t crowd surf. Most of the time I’m now in the back with ear plugs (never used to wear plugs) hoping I’m not overly tired the next day. Not so long ago I went to every show with nothing protecting my ears and having the time of my life. For the next few days I could barely hear and the ringing could be unbearable at times. Instead of being concerned I took it as a badge of honor. I was stupid, clearly. I do my best now to not be so careless about my hearing. If there is anything I took from this movie it’s that once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

The Sound of Metal is about a young man who drums for a metal band led by his girlfriend. One normal, insignificant day as he preps for their next show he suddenly becomes shut off from the world. Everything becomes muffled and no amount of jaw stretching or nose blowing is bringing it back. Fear quickly sets in and he panics. Who wouldn’t panic? For the rest of this man’s story he attempts to adjust to his new normal as a deaf person.

Riz Ahmed stars as Ruben, a man not remotely prepared for the wrench life is throwing at him. Ahmed conveys this man’s fear and anguish trading off between the two emotions or at times living firmly within both simultaneously. He is raw and filled with such fervor as he strives for what he will eventually learn is never coming back. His goal is to realize that being deaf is not a death sentence and the calm moments of silence can be something pure and cherished. He need only silence the last thing he can still hear, the doubt plaguing his mind telling him that everything is lost. There is still beauty to be found, to be seen, and to be experienced.

At his side, mostly in spirit, is Lou who loves Ruben but fears his behavior is a destructive force on her life, whether she wants to admit it or not. She is loyal to Ruben and wants nothing but the best for him but her tragedy is realizing that she can’t simply say what is best for him and force him to help his situation, he must find his own way through this sudden life change and it breaks her heart. She is afraid his dependence on her is going to kill him if he loses his sanity. Olivia Cooke is Lou, and she is as powerful a presence as her male counterpart, Riz. Together they shine in the heartbreak they cast on one another. It becomes more obvious as time goes on that a relationship like theirs is doomed. Can Ruben survive his new reality without the love of his life? As an addict with a self destructive personality it’s easy to believe he may die by his own hand.

While much of this story is harrowing and morose there is a lesson to be learned from its honest portrayal of life as a suddenly deaf person. He is a man with a plan for life and when everything about that idea falls apart he must examine everything he thought he knew about finding happiness. It’s not always in the big moments that joy can be discovered. Oftentimes it’s in the smaller moments, the quiet moments, that true contentment is found. It’s the moments when we can sit in peace with nothing more than our thoughts flowing freely without judgement that our true nature can find its breath.

Sound of Metal is about a man of noise and surface encounters finding his inner peace as life steals something most of us take for granted. This is a story that can bring realization into your life about the things you may have been neglecting. Whether it’s just protecting your hearing or finding your true north, Sound of Metal is an encouragement to discover for the sake of beauty you may not realize is all around you. It’s found everywhere, even in the things you once thought were nothing more than a hindrance or impasse on your path to finding true happiness. My takeaway from this film is despite the noise, take a breath, close your eyes, and just, be. If you can do that maybe everything won’t feel so overwhelming. Only one way to find out.

Rated R For: language throughout and brief nude images
Runtime: 120 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Drama, Music
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Mathieu Amalric
Directed By: Darius Marder

Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 5/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 5 Nerdskulls

Buy to Own: Yes. Currently in select theaters now. Streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime Video, December 4th, 2020.

Check out the trailer below:

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Chase Gifford

"Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world"-Jean-Luc Godard