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CODA

Synopsis:
As a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) Ruby is the only hearing person in her deaf family. When the family’s fishing business is threatened, Ruby finds herself torn between pursuing her love of music by wanting to go to Berklee College of Music and her fear of abandoning her parents.
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A Child of Deaf Adults aspires to pursue a singing career in . Ruby Rossi () is the only hearing member of an all-deaf family that includes her fisherman father Frank (), mother Jackie (), and older brother Leo (). One day, Ruby decides to pursue her love of singing and join her school's choir. It is there where music teacher Bernardo Villalobos () notices her talent and grooms her along with fellow student Miles () for an upcoming audition for the Berklee College of Music. However, with Ruby's family dependent on her as an interpreter, she becomes fearful about abandoning them.

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CODA is a film written and directed by Sian Heder and is a remake of the 2014 French film La famille bélier. The film focuses on the titular Child of Deaf Adults, Ruby Rossi who has struggled for most of her life being the only hearing member of her family, often acting as an interpreter for her parents and brother. However, Ruby has always has had a secret love of music, which she spontaneously decides to pursue by joining her school's choir. However, with her father Frank and brother Leo found a fishing coop, Ruby is needed by them more than ever, even if it means putting aside her own dreams.

CODA is a feel-good coming-of-age story that also tackles the challenges of being the only hearing member of an all-deaf family. Unlike the original French film La famille bélier, which controversially featured hearing actors in some of the deaf roles, CODA cast real deaf actors as the members of the Rossi family, which includes Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God), who is still probably most recognizable deaf actor 36 years after her breakthrough role. However, arguably the biggest acting challenge in the film would have to go to lead Emilia Jones, who goes back and forth throughout the film between speaking scenes and subtitled scenes done entirely in sign language.

Much of the drama within CODA comes from the difficulty Ruby's parent's have understanding her singing ambitions, since they are unable to hear Ruby's singing. There is a particularly powerful scene in the film, where Ruby is singing on stage and audio cuts out, while we see her father Frank observing the reactions of people in the audience. He then later has her sing to him privately, while he feels the vibrations of her vocal chords.

While it can be easy to shrug off CODA as little more than a feel-good film, the film does tackle the challenges faced by deaf people to live relatively normal live in society. In addition, the fact that they live between the two worlds makes the lives Children of Deaf Adults all the more challenging.

Trailer for CODA

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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