Darius Marder's thoughtful drama is elevated by great performances.
Riz Ahmed had a hell of a year in 2020, further solidifying his reputation as one of Britain’s finest actors and artists as he produced Sound of Metal and Mogul Mowgli, wrote and starred in the award-winning short film The Long Goodbye and stepped away from the Hollywood blockbusters to focus on independent projects instead. Mogul Mowgli’s time in cinemas was hindered by the second U.K. lockdown, and Sound of Metal’s theatrical run has experienced the same fate at the hands of the third. But the critical acclaim of both films should ensure that audiences get to see them eventually, as both have been labelled as two of the best films to come out recently.
Sound of Metal in particular received huge buzz since premiering in 2019 at various film festivals. The film focuses on Ruben (played by Ahmed), a drummer for a metal band whose life is changed completely when he discovers that he is losing his hearing. We watch as he tries to adjust to a life without sound in spite of the fact that it has been his most relied-on sense for most of his life. From the description, one is likely to expect a literally and figuratively loud film bursting with melodrama and bold performances, but instead director Darius Marder on his debut feature takes a far more grounded approach, portraying this situation with such a beautiful fragility that it’s shocking at times.
Having previously co-written the screenplay for the equally great The Place Beyond the Pines (Dir. Derek Cianfrance, 2012) with Ben Coccio and Derek Cianfrance (the latter of which returned the favour by co-writing and producing Sound of Metal), Marder shows his experience in the industry by directing with confidence and tenderness, making choices few directors would have given from the premise. Of course, the cast play their part in making the film as moving as it is, particularly the performances of Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke as Lou (Riz’s bandmate and girlfriend) and Paul Raci as Joe, who helps Ruben adjust to a world without sound. All do a fantastic job in ensuring that the film feels as authentic as possible.
Consistently impressive, subversive and tender, Sound of Metal is a great film that takes a premise that could easily become a weak melodrama and leans on the power of its performances to become genuinely heartfelt and striking. Riz Ahmed gives one of the best performances of recent memory (something he seems to do consistently when he finds the right project), helped along by a brilliant script and his co-stars, in a film that most everyone should see when possible.
Sound of Metal (2020), directed by Darius Marder, is distributed in the U.K. by Amazon Studios, Certificate 15. Release Date TBA. Watch the trailer below: