Straightaway, this is a not-be-missed heartwarmer, so rich in authentic emotions it feels and smells like freshly plucked apples from the tree of life. CODA is the story of a deaf family,and their daughter who is not aurally impaired and who wants to pursue a career in music.
Sounds familiar? That’s right. Sanjay Leela Bhansali got there 25 years ago in Khamoshi The Musical. Remember the glorious Manisha Koirala as Annie trying to live up to her deaf parents' - Nana Patekar and Seema Biswas - expectations? Remember her singing 'Yeh dil sun raha hai' while her parents stare mutely wondering how well their daughter sings.
CODA is no less an emotional experience. Emilia Jones as the physically normal daughter of her family of deaf parents and brother (the brother died young in Khamoshi) is devastatingly enchanting. As Ruby, Emilia Jones nails the suppressed desires of a daughter riddled with guilt for being physically normal.
In fact, there is a heartbreaking sequence in CODA (acronym for ‘childrens of deaf adults’) where Ruby’s mother Jackie (the lovely Marlee Matlin who aeons ago made a grand impact as deaf-mute in The Children Of Lesser God) confesses to Ruby that she had actually hoped Ruby would be deaf like the rest of the family when she was born.
Amazingly this emotionally-shattering confessional sequence between mother and daughter ends with a giggle rather than a sob. There is no room for self pity or wound-licking in this brave and beautiful story with rousing edifying performances by all.
Of course, Emilia Jones is a revelation. But is she as good as Manisha Koirala in Khamoshi? Wait, am I being biased here? No two ways about Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur being superior to Nana Patekar and Seema Biswas in the earlier classic. And with reason: Matlin and Kotsur are deaf in real life. This opens up a debate on whether only the physically impaired should play such roles.
Not that I am complaining. CODA leaves no room for quibble. From the way the director officiates unobtrusively over the domestic squabbles to the scenes in the school choir where a passionate music teacher (Euginio Derbez) prods Ruby into a career in music, everything is pitch-perfect here.
By the time Emilia Jones’ Ruby is on stage singing Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now in that angelic voice, her fate is sealed. So is the film’s.
Image Source: Instagram/codamovie, youtube/appletv