Sound of Metal is Problematic, but with Good Sound Design

Skyler Johnson ’22 / Emertainment Monthly Comics Section Editor

Sound of Metal is simultaneously pretty good and terrible. The cinematography was pretty good. The sound design was excellent. The writing wasn’t bad, though there could’ve been greater characterization. The message was confusing and borderline offensive. 

To be fair, I’m not deaf. I don’t understand all the nuances of Deaf Culture, which is real and deserves to be respected, for I am not deaf or Deaf. All I will refer to in this review is this movie’s portrayal of the Deaf Community.   

Drummer and former addict Ruben (Riz Ahmed) loses his hearing and is forced to enter a rehab program for the deaf so he doesn’t relapse. What’s the story with his drug addiction? Well, we never find out. Honestly it doesn’t add anything, save for explaining some of the facility’s weird behavior, like the program director taking away Ruben’s phone and keys. 

Actually, that doesn’t explain the weird behavior because Ruben makes no reference as to how he’s going to get these drugs or even expressing a desire to take drugs again. Sure, he talks about killing himself and smokes a cigarette. He should be in the program, don’t get me wrong, but he should be able to go on Instagram. In fact, none of the deaf people have phones, or any technology for that matter. Most rehab centers have a TV. Not this facility.

Ruben is forced to go to a school for deaf children. He’s treated like he’s one of the kids, which is humiliating. Also, isn’t he supposed to be an addict? In most rehab centers they don’t allow the addicts around children. Why is he the exception? 

There are moments like these that make you question whether this is rehab or a cult. Everyone has a job, they’re in the middle of nowhere, there’s no technology, and no one leaves. I was half expecting a blood ritual. Is that what the director (Darius Marder) thinks Deaf Culture is like? Leaving the facility is treated as offensive, even though he no longer wants to kill himself. He wants to go back to his girlfriend (Olivia Cooke), whom he loves. He wants to be a drummer for a metal band, which he can do while deaf. What a criminal.

Again, everything else is terrific. The sound design is wonderful, and you feel as though you were being placed into the head of a deaf person, and they use techniques to accomplish this that have never been used. The cinematography was great too, there were some interesting shots. The acting was spectacular. And, for the most part they tried to cast deaf actors or people who had ties to the deaf community. All of that is great, but the film still makes you worried Ruben is going to be sacrificed. 

In conclusion, Sound of Metal is about a toxic cult disguised as a story about having to accept a new reality. C. The film will be released on Prime Video December 4th.

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