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Sound of Metal

****
2020

‘…a strong little indie with a great performance by Riz Ahmed…’

Ah, the 2021 awards season, where studios held back their major product (West Side Story, Dune, In the Heights, Top Gun: Maverick) and instead opened up a sluice gate of home-viewing misery; racism, sexism, angst, illness, dementia, alcoholism and homelessness. If you had a prestige picture that wasn’t likely to make such coin, 2021 was happy to hear from you. Films that have missed release date after release date during the pandemic, now finally roll out; Sound of Metal slips into reach in the UK a good four months after an Amazon Prime release in the US generated some word of mouth. It’s a strong little indie with a great performance by Riz Ahmed, but arriving at the tail end of a motely field in the UK doesn’t do it any favours.

Ruben (Ahmed) is a drummer in a band called Blackgammon; he loves music, but is losing his hearing. His lover and band-mater Lou (Olivia Cooke) demands he get medical assistance, and with cochlear implants not an option due to the couple’s lack of financial liquidity, Ruben agrees to stay in a church-sponsored shelter run by Joe (Paul Raci). Joe encourages Ruben to seek a mental recovery rather than a physical one, but when an opportunity presents itself to move forwards, Ruben has to make a difficult choice in terms of his physical and mental health, and also his relationship with Lou.

In some countries, these films may be released in the opposite order, but perhaps any fatigue felt while watching Sound of Metal is because it follows a painfully similar trajectory to last year’s Mogul Mowgli, in which Ahmed also played a musician whose career is afflicted by a debilitating condition. Ahmed does a convincing job, and the development of Ruben’s creative self under pressure is carefully charted. And Darius Marder does a great job with his sound mix too, suggesting the way that Ruben struggles to deal with disorientating and debilitating hearing loss. Raci in particular contributes a break-out performance as a mentor-figure up to his armpits in integrity, but frustratingly Cooke’s Lou isn’t given the same screen-time or texture.

As with Call Me By Your Name, the final, unexpected codas add a great deal to this story, and are best left to the viewer to enjoy without their card being marked. But somehow the microscope of awards interest is unflattering in this case, by April 2021, the parade of worthies feels endless, and while Sound of Metal has many virtues, it feels a little lost in a field of similarly seriously-minded efforts. A cinema release is still planned in the UK, from May 17th if the virus allows it…

Sound of Metal is on Amazon Prime in the UK. Click the link below to see if it’s free for you to view.

Thanks to Amazon Prime for advance screener access to this title.

Comments

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    • It’s certainly bog screen entertainment, although arthouse only given the digital release today….

  1. I remember my head-banging days. Is metal back now?
    Well, at least it isn’t more BritPorn.
    I’d like to see Dr. Fraggle do one of those GQ YouTube videos where she discusses this. It sounds like it could use an expert point of view.

  2. I am glad you mentioned that previous movie because I was about to ask if this was one of those “infamous” reviews that you edit and re-release.

    I’m surprised that more drummers aren’t deaf. You’d think that wall of deep noise would just destroy their hearing.

  3. Why are some things released in America, and then later in different countries? I’ve never fully understood. What I hate most is that Netflix US have great programmes and films and for some reason they’re not on Netflix UK. What do they have to lose?

    • Yup, I’d originally concealed my nationality so that I could drain the content from other countries, but have found other ways to do it now. In the days of piracy, releasing day and date worldwide seems to make sense, since if you’re really stoked for a film, it’s unlikely that you’ll wait six months to see it. If streamers were trying to encourage piracy, this would be a great way to do it. Makes zero sense.

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