Sound of Metal (2019)

"This is off to a really bad start", I thought as Riz Ahmed was playing the drums and Olivia Cooke singing in the opening sequence. What can I say, I don't like heavy metal and that beginning made me kind of wish I was deaf so I wouldn't have to bear it. But people whose film opinions I trust loved Sound of Metal, I kept repeating myself, so I kept watching. And soon enough, I couldn't take my eyes off of Darius Marder's film as it became more and more powerful and thought-provoking as well as emotional and heartbreaking. 

Ruben (Riz Ahmed) lives in an RV with his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). Both recovering addicts, he is a drummer and she is a singer and guitarist, and together they travel the country to perform as the heavy metal duo Blackgammon. 

One day, while performing on stage, Ruben starts to hear nothing but muffled sounds. Confused and scared, he seeks help from an audiologist (Tom Kemp) who not only diagnoses permanent hearing loss but also tells Ruben that his hearing will continue to deteriorate rapidly and that he must eliminate all exposure to loud noises. There is one way for Ruben to regain his hearing and that is through a very expensive cochlear implant, but he doesn't have the money and, as he's not ready to give up on music, he continues to perform. 

Lou soon finds out and becomes concerned not only for his health but for his sobriety as well, and contacts Ruben's sponsor, who finds him a place in a rural community for deaf recovering addicts run by Joe (Paul Raci), a recovering alcoholic who lost his hearing in the Vietnam War. 

Pressured by Lou, Ruben reluctantly agrees to join the community. But, even as he slowly learns sign language and becomes a prominent member within the community, his mind is constantly there, putting together enough money to get the surgery.

With Sound of Metal, Marder brings to the screen an incredibly tragic, heartbreaking and terrifying story, one that sticks with you long after the film ends as it makes you grateful of every little thing you have in your life, and makes you realise that life doesn't end just because you have a disability. "We are looking for a solution to this (points to head), not this (points to ears)", says Paul Raci's Joe at some point and it perfectly captures the essence of the story. 

There's more. Rather than portraying Ruben's fixation with getting the implants like a triumph, the ultimate goal, Sound of Metal portrays it as a form of an addiction, something that gives Ruben the illusion of happiness and getting his life back. He is so blinded by this desire that he doesn't realise that, implant or not, his life will never be the same.

Technically speaking, the sound design is arguably the most outstanding aspect of the film as it perfectly evokes the sensation of being inside Ruben's head. It is haunting to listen — or rather not listen — to his hearing deteriorate throughout the film, as it is shocking to witness the contrast between clear audio and Ruben's as the film cleverly switches between the two, as it is heartbreaking to hear the metallic sounds Ruben hears after the surgery. This is one of the few films I've seen where sound design can either make or break the film and it definitely makes Sound of Metal.

As great as the sound is, Sound of Metal wouldn't have been the powerful film it is if it wasn't for Riz Ahmed's outstanding performance. He puts so much passion into bringing to life the flawed, nuanced, and realistic human being Ruben is, and conveys to perfection the rage, fear, and heartbreaking Ruben experiences while struggling to cope with his situation. Olivia Cooke provides strong support as Ruben's girlfriend Lou, and she shares such beautiful chemistry with Ahmed, their relationship is genuine and beautiful. It's Paul Raci, however, who provides the best support as he delivers a calm, and yet thrilling and impactful performance as his thoughtful and wise character provided the necessary contrast to Ruben. The rest of the cast, which includes many deaf actors, also gives great performances. 

Ultimately, Sound of Metal is a beautifully done film about deafness and addiction that avoids every cliché. An immersive and unique sensory experience that no one should miss. 


  1. Riz is sooooo goooood in this ❤❤❤❤

    1. I know right!? I hope he wins all the awards!!

    2. ALL THE AWARDS! Apparently he has another new one out where he also is a musician and is in an accident or smth. God.... I will suffer so much for this man apparently . :D

  2. It's really good, right? I heard so much buzz about it then finally sat down to watch. I wasn't disappointed.

  3. Yess!! I'm glad you loved this too.