OPENWIDE at TIFF: "Sound of Metal" Review
by: Megan Bishop, Culture and Entertainment Editor
Rediscovering your place in the world is the center of Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal which premiered globally at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 6. The film follows Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed), a heavy metal drummer who loses his hearing and needs to adjust to a world without sound. The film carefully examines Ruben’s state through sound. The audio mix is one of a kind, shifting the audience's perspective in multiple times throughout a single scene. Ruben is the heart of the story as he explores different avenues of adjusting to a life without sound. The film does not offer any easy fixes to Ruben’s situation, but offers different avenues of change that allows the character to grow throughout the film. With the severity of its subject matter, Sound of Metal also has many moments of humour. However, these moments have an underlying sadness which informs Ruben’s perspective on his predicament.
The film is grounded by Riz Ahmed’s astounding performance as Ruben. Ahmed has always been a dynamic actor and has had supporting roles in blockbuster fair such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Venom, but he shows his ability to be an incredible leading man. The character goes through so much struggle and change that it is fascinating and heartbreaking to watch. Supporting Ruben’s journey is his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke), who is the guitarist and vocalist of their metal music duo. Cooke gives a heart-wrenching performance as she must navigate how to support and care for Ruben despite her own career and financial situation. Cooke and Ahmed share multiple intense scenes that can only be executed by incredible actors.
The remainder of the cast was comprised of hearing impaired actors and actresses who are all vital in Ruben’s transformation. Paul Raci’s beautifully understated performance complimented Ruben’s sporadic moments, creating some of the most touching and heartfelt scenes in the film. Another standout was Lauren Ridloff who brought such kindness and warmth whenever she was on-screen, a quality I hope she brings to her performance of Maakari in Marvel’s upcoming film The Eternals where she will play the first deaf superhero in a blockbuster film.
Sound of Metal was also intentionally screened with closed captions so individuals who are hearing impaired can also partake in the communal theatre-going experience. The close captions paired with the unique audio formed one of the most unique film-going experiences I have ever had. Marder shines as a director as he is able to transform a familiar experience into something new. Sound of Metal (recently acquired by Amazon Studios) is not just a story of adjusting to a new way of life but finding re-birth through self discovery.
Sound of Metal is not to be missed as it tells an original story that is emotionally raw, provides a unique film-watching experience; and, most of all, demonstrates the importance of kindness, understanding, and openness, all topics that are important in the current hateful world.