This is a heartwarming, well-executed family/coming-of-age drama about a teen stuck between helping her family and fulfilling her potential. Jones, who reportedly spent nine months studying ASL to prepare for the role, gives a wonderfully expressive performance as Ruby, who's easy for audiences to cheer for, even when she's moody. But what really makes CODA notable is that, unlike the original French film, which starred all hearing actors, this version cast three deaf actors, including Oscar winner Matlin, as the deaf members of the Rossi family. All three stand out: Kotsur as Frank, the laid-back dad who makes fart jokes and can't keep his hands off of his former beauty-queen wife; Matlin as Jackie, a mom who doesn't quite know how to connect with her daughter; and Durant as Leo, the heartthrob, hotheaded brother who resents that his parents rely so much on Ruby. The cast is rounded out with notable supporting performances by Mexican comedian Derbez as the funny, larger-than-life Mr. V., and Sing Street alum Walsh-Peelo as Ruby's classmate, duet partner, and love interest, Miles.
Music is a huge part of the film, and the two songs Ruby sings are ideally chosen to reflect her situation. First, there's the legendary Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell duet "You're All I Need to Get By," which is one of pop music's most perfect love songs and in this case acts as a catalyst for Ruby and Miles' growing but slow-burning romance. It's a beautiful song, and the arrangement chosen for Jones and Walsh-Peelo suits their complementary voices and evokes so much joy and love that Ruby's family can feel it while watching others react during an important performance. The other key song is the one Ruby is practicing for her audition. Her take on Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" is sure to bring tears to many viewers' eyes, as will the beautiful scene when Ruby sings just for her father. Heder takes the movie in various directions with its mix of coming-of-age drama, high school angst, broad comedy, and working-class themes, but it all works, coming together as a memorable family movie night pick for parents with teens.