A heavy metal drummer struggles with the fact that he is going deaf in Sound of Metal. Ruben (Riz Ahmed) and Lou (Olivia Cooke) are a couple who tour together as part of a heavy metal band. One day Ruben gets an immense ringing in his ears and after going to a doctor he learns that he is rapidly losing his hearing. In denial about this revelation, Ruben is intent to keep on touring and just get an expensive surgery for a hearing aid implant. However, Lou takes Ruben to a community for the deaf run by Joe (Paul Raci), where Ruben is expected to come to accept the way his life is now.
Sound of Metal is directorial debut from director and co-writer Darius Marder (The Place Beyond the Pines), which tells the story of heavy metal drummer Ruben, who lives in an RV with his girlfriend and bandmate Lou. A recovering drug addict, Ruben’s life begins to crumble when he discovers that he has lost more than three quarters of his hearing. Ruben is brought to a deaf community, where he is taught sign language by teacher Diane (Lauren Ridloff) and is taught by community leader Joe that being deaf is not something that you should try to fix. However, Ruben is desperate for his life to return to the way it was and he is willing to do anything to return things to normal.
Right down to the fact that the film is presented with open captioning, Sound of Metal is ultimately a film about being deaf and learning to accept it as part of your life. This accomplished by the sound mix of the films, which allows the audience to experience what Ruben’s hearing loss is like, particularly a muffled and/or tinny sound that gives the title of Sound of Metal a bit of a double meaning. In addition, dialogue becomes less important to the film, as the plot moves along and Ruben begins to learn how to communicate through sign language.
Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler, Rogue One) gives a career-defining performance as Ruben, whose immense denial of the fact that his hearing loss is permanent, results in him taking on similar behaviours to his past as a drug addict, particularly when it involves finding money for an expensive insertion of a hearing aid implant. Even though she has second billing, Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One, Thoroughbreds) as Ruben’s girlfriend Lou becomes less prominent as the plot moves on, though the character does have a memorable scene later in the film with her father Richard (Mathieu Amalric).
Overall, I will say that Sound of Metal is a film about the acceptance of hearing loss that I quite recommend.