Sound of Metal ★★★½

SOUND OF METAL plays like Oscar-bait in two ways: Riz Ahmed being an able-bodied person performing in a showy role where he goes through major physical changes, and its heavy-handed script. The best part of the film is its middle section, set at the sober living center for deaf recovering addicts. Rather than celebrating 12-stepping, it's actually fairly nuanced. While largely celebratory towards the idea of community embodied there, it also shows their potentially manipulative, even cult-like qualities, where Ahmed's character has to be separated from his girlfriend/musical partner and denied access to his phone to become part of that community. As much as he benefits from it, he has to give up something real and difficult (not just using drugs) to remain there. Ahmed's performance really is worthy of all that hype. He's great at blurring the line between entitled rage and justified confusion and disorientation at his sudden hearing loss. (In real life, he's a very talented rapper, but the scene where he plays the drums shows some serious chops too.) Unfortunately, the film feels confused when he returns to life back with his girlfriend, while it plays out his ambivalence in on-the-
nose ways, especially in the final scene.

I have never gone through anything as severe as Ahmed's character, but I did experience a gradual, year-long deterioration of my vision due to cataracts, with a long delay of surgery and a period where I fell completely out of touch with my doctor due to COVID shutting down all "non-essential surgery"and most medical offices in New York last spring and summer. I got through it eventually with my vision intact, but it made a permanent impact on my life, and I could recognize a lot of that period's emotional journey depicted accurately here.

The costume designer has great taste in punk band T-shirts. Shout-out to Rudimentary Peni and Einsturzende Neubauten!

Steve Erickson liked this review