CODA – Review by Susan Granger

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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+.

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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.