A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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 ...
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?
- In theaters: November 20, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: December 4, 2020
- Cast: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci
- Director: Darius Marder
- Studio: Amazon Studios
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 121 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout and brief nude images
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award
- Last updated: April 25, 2021
Our editors recommend
For kids who love dramas
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch