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Hearing Aide

Coda-movie-review-emilia-jones
Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
CODA (2021)

If “Sound of Metal” is about the hearing impaired learning to normalize the disability, then “CODA” is set in the utopia where that normalization is complete. “CODA” does indeed center on a hearing protagonist; its title is an acronym for child of deaf adults. Here, deafness is more of an inconvenience for the hearing, and our protagonist is torn between interpreting for her family’s thriving fishery business and pursuing her own musical talents.

Ruby (Emilia Jones) seems fine with the fact that she isn’t one of the cool kids at school. She’s ready to dismiss the notion of the choir as a viable extracurricular activity – with a jab at “Pitch Perfect” – until the hot guy, Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, typecast after “Sing Street”), signs up. She’s initially too self-conscious and literally runs away when Mr. V. (Eugenio Derbez) tries to gauge her vocal range. A duet assignment predictably fosters a budding romance, until Miles mocks Ruby’s parents’ signing during lunch break.

The outside world can be cruel, but otherwise Ruby’s home life is bliss. Mom (Marlee Matlin) and dad (Troy Kotsur) are giddy like young lovebirds and not at all shy about their active sex life. Her brother, Leo (Daniel Durant), attracts the attention of her friend, Gertie (Amy Forsyth). The only obstacle they face is the greedy middleman in the fishing business, whom they are trying to circumvent. Now more than ever, they need Ruby to speak on their behalf.

In other words, “CODA” is the kind of coming-of-age crowd pleaser from Sundance that often goes on to become a breakout hit. The best part about it is how it treats disability as something completely ordinary – analogous to first-generation immigrants not knowing English and depending on their bilingual children to translate. That was the whole point of “Sound of Metal,” and here that point doesn’t even need to be made. Yet the refreshing casualness of its depiction of deafness is what separates “CODA” from the other Sundance coming-of-age crowd pleasers. Not only are we rooting for the heroine, we also get to relate to her nuclear family – the movie lets us view them as people, and not objects of our sympathies.

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