Life & Culture

Film review: Sound of Metal

Five stars for this examination of a young musician's deafness


Riz Ahmed gives a career-defining performance in this heartfelt drama from Jewish writer-director Darius Marder. Based on an unfinished project entitled Metalhead by co-writer Derek Cianfrance, Sound of Metal tells the story of an alternative rock drummer whose career is up-ended by a sudden loss of hearing.

Life feels like it’s almost over for punk metal drummer Ruben (Ahmed) when he loses his hearing overnight. Concerned about falling back into bad habits, the former heroin addict is persuaded by his bandmate and girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) to enter a rehab facility for the deaf to help deal with his anxieties.

Devastated by the end of his touring life with Lou, Ruben puts all his hopes on a costly medical intervention which could recover some of his hearing. Ruben is caught between the agonising longing for his old life on the road and accepting his new status.

“Being deaf is not a handicap, not something to fix,” utters addiction facility coach Joe (Paul Raci) in the hope of getting through to his troubled new charge. It is this idea that sits at the heart of Sound of Metal’s beautifully layered narrative. Marder’s film does away with the stigma attached to disabilities, choosing to represent them as differences rather than handicaps.

The film often feels more like a fly on the wall documentary, with many parts played by non professional actors. Ahmed and Cooke put in two electrifying and gorgeously understated turns as two people struggling to accept the inevitable as they navigate a new set of challenges.

Sound of Metal is a beautifully executed story of alienation, acceptance and new beginnings. It is truly one of the most exhilarating films of the year and deserves even single one of its seven Oscar nominations.


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