First things first, Riz Ahmed is a force of nature as a drummer named Ruben suddenly gone deaf. But, why is a Pakistani British actor playing an American drummer? If there are objections raised at the brilliant Viggo Mortensen playing a gay character in Falling, then why are actors of Asian origin being cast as British and American characters(Dev Patel as David Copperfield, now Riz as an American drummer, what next Priyanka Chopra as Michelle Obama?).
More importantly, why not cast a deaf actor in the role? I ask this because the film is populated with actors suffering from hearing disability including Lauren Ridloff who appears as Diane possible love interest for our raging deaf hero at a healing centre for the aurally impaired. Like much else in the film, the relationship between Diane and Ruben remains half-formed, obfuscated and tangled in ambiguities.
Once Ruben goes deaf suddenly (after a horridly noisy concert performance with his musical and life partner Lou played by the talented Olivia Cooke), the film gets as confused about its identity and priorities as its protagonist. From here onwards, Ruben rages and rants at destiny as well as those around him. In one sequence he crushes a donut on a table and beats it to a pulp. This, I suppose, is his way of expressing his anger and resentment. But, it doesn’t help him. And, it certainly doesn’t help the donut either.
Adding to his woes is his girlfriend who decides to leave him at the doorsteps of a healing centre and flees, like an unwed mother leaving a child at an orphanage. We then have Ruben in long boring conversations with an inmate named Joe(Paul Raci) who dishes out Gyan about coping with a disability as if he was some kind of a seer from La La Land.
Ruben rages out of therapy (maybe it’s the quality of the donuts) gets expensive audio surgery done and has his hearing partially restored. But he soon realizes that the world has moved on and so has his girlfriend (whom we know we can’t trust, not after she dumps him right in the middle of his crisis). Ruben realizes he prefers his world of silence.
Hey, Manoj Kumar got there 48 years ago in Shor. What sets Sound Of Metal apart is its grating sound design. We hear the world as Ruben hears it after his deafness and we hear it as normal people do. The schizophrenic sound design may be an attempt at realism. But, it actually comes across as plainly annoying and grating.
If the truth be told, Riz Ahmed is the only reason to watch this disappointing film. And if you can bear him with blonde hair, indeterminate accent and fits of anger, you are welcome to sit through what is essentially a one-line story. What if you lose your world in one moment?
Image source: IMBD,Youtube/amazoneprimevideo