Did you know that CODA is an acronym for children of deaf adults?
Set in coastal Gloucester, Massachusetts, Coda chronicles the reaction of a close-knit deaf family – played by three deaf actors (Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur, Daniel Durant) – to the desire of their hearing daughter (Emilia Jones) to go away to music school.
Shy 17 year-old high school senior Ruby Rossi (Jones) has always loved to sing but when she attends choir audition – she panics. As the lone hearing person in her family of fishermen, she’s served as their interpreter in all social/business interactions.
Ruby’s alarm clock goes off at 3 a.m., so she can work on their fishing trawler and then bargain with local buyers as to how much their haul will sell for. She’s exhausted, often falling asleep in class.
Since the Rossis have always isolated themselves, Ruby’s often teased and bullied. Her only friend is Gertie (Amy Forsyth), who has a crush on Ruby’s hunky older brother Miles (Durant).
Sensing Ruby’s latent talent, the eccentric choir director (Eugenio Derbez) coaches her to strive for her heart’s desire, teaming her in a duet with classmate Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo).
By incorporating American Sign Language (ASL) along with subtitles, writer/director Sian Heder opens a window into the trials and tribulations of the deaf, a segment of our culture that’s been largely isolated and ignored for many years.
Actually, this is a remake of La Famille Belier, a 2014 French film in which hearing actors portrayed deaf characters. But when Heder met with Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin (“Children of a Lesser God”), she resolved to cast deaf actors, along with hiring two ASL experts to ensure accuracy.
During one emotionally impactful scene, Heder totally cuts the audio, allowing us to experience the poignant isolation of a completely silent world.
Realizing the need to authentically represent people with disabilities, Apple bought this feel-good family/coming-of-age drama for a record-setting $25 million at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, Coda is a charming, crowd-pleasing 8, streaming on Apple TV+.