Sound of Metal

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Sound of Metal Movie Poster Image
Powerful, emotional drama about deafness has salty language.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 121 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

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

Loud, violent music. Screaming. Fits of rage, smashing things. Cutting scars on a character's arm. Threat of suicide. Surgery.

Sex

Graphic drawing/tattoo of a naked woman, full-frontal. Passionate kissing; couple sleeps in bed together. Mention of "anal."

Language

Strong, frequent language includes many uses of "f--k" or "f--king," "motherf----r," "s--t," "damn," "anal," "idiot." Middle-finger gesture.

Consumerism
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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySilvaB May 23, 2021

Faultless

Mesmerising acting in lead role. I would give 5 stars for positive role models and positive messages. A mature 12/13 year old could gain a lot from watching... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bySeagulls19 March 22, 2021

I'm speeches

Wow. What a great Movie. this is one of those films that will make even the toughest of people shed a couple of tears, watching this grief-stricken drummer try... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bywebuyanycar124 August 27, 2021

Incredibly acted and well written

This is great drama about a drummer who goes deaf, the movie includes some sex, and a somewhat bloody surgery scene. Lots of cursing.

What's the story?

In SOUND OF METAL, Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed) is the drummer in the metal band Blackgammon, with his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) on guitar and shrieking vocals. While setting up for a gig, Ruben experiences a sudden loss of hearing; he can't hear a thing. A doctor tells him that he needs to stay away from loud noises or face losing his hearing for good. Ruben also learns about cochlear implants, which are expensive but could let him hear again. After unwisely faking his way through the gig, Ruben winds up at a special camp for deaf and hard of hearing people that's run by kindly, no-nonsense war veteran Joe (Paul Raci). There, Ruben begins to learn American Sign Language and how to manage his deafness. But he can't stop thinking about the implants and how they could allow him to return to music -- and to Lou.

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Sound of Metal depicts smoking and addiction. How is it presented? Is anything glamorized? Are there realistic consequences? Why is that important?

  • If you don't have firsthand experience with deafness, did the movie impact the way you think or feel about it? If you do, how does it reflect your own experiences and opinions?

  • Why do you think Joe rejects Ruben after Ruben decides to get the cochlear implants? What does Joe mean when he says that deafness isn't something that needs to be "fixed"?

  • How do you feel about the filmmakers' decision to cast a hearing actor to play Ruben?

Movie details

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