A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Movie is partly based around real-life division within the Deaf community between those who support cochlear implants and those who don't. Main message is that deafness isn't necessarily something that needs to be "fixed" and can be part of a fulfilling life.
Positive Role Models
Ruben is a troubled character (he has a substance dependency, though he hasn't used that substance for four years and doesn't use it in the movie), and he does many things that are risky and ill-advised, but given his loss (his music and his relationship with another musician), it's somewhat understandable. For a while, his efforts to become involved with the Deaf community are positive. Movie leaves him with a hard road ahead, with no conclusions, but there's a sign that he could try to choose a positive path again. Some members of the Deaf community have spoken out about the casting of a hearing actor in the lead role and about the lack of clear use of ASL onscreen.
Violence & Scariness
Loud, violent music. Screaming. Fits of rage, smashing things. Cutting scars on a character's arm. Threat of suicide. Surgery.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Graphic drawing/tattoo of a naked woman, full-frontal. Passionate kissing; couple sleeps in bed together. Mention of "anal."
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Strong, frequent language includes many uses of "f--k" or "f--king," "motherf----r," "s--t," "damn," "anal," "idiot." Middle-finger gesture.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Main character regularly smokes cigarettes. Main character is recovering from a substance dependency and has been sober for four years. Mention of heroin. Scene set in a recovery meeting.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sound of Metal is a drama about a drummer in a metal band (Riz Ahmed) who suddenly loses his hearing. The movie deals with the controversy of cochlear implants within the Deaf community, and it's a very powerful, emotional work with excellent performances. Language is very strong, with frequent uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. There's also a graphic drawing/tattoo of a fully naked woman, and a couple kisses passionately and sleeps in bed together. There's also some sex-related talk. The main character smokes cigarettes and is recovering from addiction. There are mentions of heroin and other characters having alcohol use disorder. The main character rages, throws tantrums, and smashes things. Cutting scars are visible on a woman's arm, and there's a threat of suicide and some loud, violent music and screaming. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
With its focus on characters, emotions, and ideology, this powerful drama with great performances easily overcomes its few flaws to drum up enormous empathy and heartbreak. The feature directing debut of Darius Marder, who co-wrote The Place Beyond the Pines, Sound of Metal uses a rather drab, realistic palette that matches Ruben's rock-rebel sensibility (his wardrobe consists entirely of battered band-logo shirts and hoodies). There may be one scene too many of handheld cameras capturing moments of brooding. But the actors immerse themselves into the movie's world with total commitment. Ahmed, unsurprisingly, is amazing, though his best work isn't so much the rage that Ruben expresses about his deafness but the earlier scenes of existential terror when he first realizes what's happening to him.
Another standout is Raci, who brings a powerful weight and history to Joe (it turns out that he's an actual veteran and the child of deaf parents, and he plays in a band that performs in ASL). His signing is almost like a dance. Another masterstroke is the movie's sound design, which brilliantly suggests what it might be like in Ruben's head, both muffled and stuffy in the early scenes and then using a buzzing, tinny sound to replicate the effect of the implants. (The movie's title likely has a dual meaning.) The post-implant scenes are the most heartbreaking in Sound of Metal, but its conclusion, both ambiguous and unforgettable, offers an amazing moment of serenity.
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