SOUND OF METAL – Review by Susan Granger

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Streaming since mid-December, Riz Ahmed’s amazing performance in Sound of Metal is beginning to garner Award recognition, and he’s a ‘lock’ for an Oscar nomination as Best Actor.

Ahmed plays Ruben Stone, a touring punk-metal drummer who first realizes he’s losing his hearing as he’s setting up his merchandise table before a gig with his bandmate/girlfriend Louise (Olivia Cooke). He’s momentarily confused by a high-pitched ringing in his ears and the muffling of voices.

A recovering heroin addict, Ruben is steered to a secluded sober house for the deaf run by Joe (Paul Raci), a Vietnam veteran who has found serenity in silence.

“Being deaf is not a handicap, not something to fix,” Joe tells him. You don’t need to fix anything here,” dismissing Ruben’s desire to raise the money for expensive bilateral cochlear implants. Instead, Ruben is encouraged to learn American Sign Language (ASL) at the rural retreat.

Scripted by Abraham Marder and co-written by his brother, director Darius Marder, it only superficially delves into the ideological and cultural divide between those, like Joe, who view deafness not as a disability but as an integral part of his identity, and others who view it as a condition that’s correctable with cochlear implants.

Riz Ahmed’s remarkable performance was enhanced by earpieces that blocked even the sound of his own voice, causing a loss of balance and directionality – an acoustic experience created by sound designer Nicolas Becker.

Paul Raci is gratified that, as the son of deaf parent, he could impart authenticity to the part: “In the past, Hollywood actresses like Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda,, Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker and Julianne Moore in Wonderstruck. Deaf people want to see themselves on-screen. It’s gratifying on so many levels.”

(Notable exceptions include Marlee Matlin in Children of a Lesser God and Millicent Simmonds in Wonderstruck & A Quiet Place.)

FYI: The plot and primary characters are based on Derek Cianfrance’s unfinished documentary Metalhead – in postproduction since 2009.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Sound of Metal is an aural, experiential 8, creating an esoteric audioscape via sound design and streaming on Amazon’s Prime Video.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.