“Sound of Metal” never misses a beat.
It’s a simple tale about complex characters in a complicated situation.
Riz Ahmed (“Nightcrawler”) is Ruben, a drummer for a metal band. He and his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”) live together in a nomadic existence, going from gig to gig in their recreational vehicle.
One day, Ruben notices his hearing isn’t what it used to be – it comes on pretty quickly. Everything sounds more and more muffled, to the point he becomes concerned and goes to see a doctor.
The physician has bad news: Ruben needs to preserve what little hearing he has left, and shouldn’t expose himself to loud noises.
He doesn’t want to tell Lou, but he finally does, and she is devastated. Ruben is a recovered addict, and she is afraid he may start to use again.
After she does some research, she finds a recovery community for the deaf. Its leader is Joe (Paul Raci,) a recovering addict himself who gives those in the community supportive but firm rules. Like Lou, Joe can see Ruben needs some help adjusting to a new life.
To force Ruben to get assistance from Joe, Lou leaves Ruben on his own. But Ruben, determined to somehow afford a cochlear implant, resists Joe and many in the community around him.
As the days go by and Ruben mourns the loss of his hearing and his music, he learns sign language and begins to adapt.
Director Darius Marder uses sound to great effect. Sometimes we hear what Ruben does, and we understand his anger and frustration all the more because of it.
Ahmed’s performance is one of the finest of the year as a man who must reconstruct how he lives in the world.
It’s an astonishing, compelling film well worth seeing.
4 out of 4 stars
Running time: Two hours.
Rated: R for foul language.
Streaming on prime video.