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From Sound of Metal (2019), dir. Darius Marder (image courtesy Ginsberg Libby)

Heavy metal drummer Ruben (Riz Ahmed) abruptly begins to lose his sense of hearing. Despite his desire to press on and continue performing, he’s convinced to check into a community for deaf recovering addicts, in order to head off a possible drug relapse. Through his time there, attending NA meetings with other hard of hearing people, volunteering at a school for the deaf, and learning sign language, he comes to understand deafness as its own community and not a handicap.

In this way, the movie Sound of Metal delves into how we find meaning in our lives, through the purposefully heightened scenario of a musician being forced to radically recontextualize what they are capable of doing. In the process, it also understatedly explores the many nuances and diverse experiences of deaf people. Ahmed’s performance is beautifully rendered, as he expresses his character’s alternating frustration and curiosity about his situation with subtlety rather than showy dramatics. And the film’s use of audio is appropriately masterful, modulating the volume and ambience of its various sounds with minute precision. It avoids many of the problematic tropes of films about disability.

Sound of Metal is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

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Dan Schindel

Dan Schindel is Associate Editor for Documentary at Hyperallergic. He lives and works in New York.

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