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Sound of Metal

4/10

Stars: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Mathieu Amalric, Lauren Ridloff

Director: Darius Marder

A heavy metal drummer wakes up one morning to find he has lost his hearing. At nighttime gigs, Ruben (Ahmed) and his singing/romantic partner Lou (Cooke) break the sound barrier. Now there is only silence. He's told that his conventional hearing has gone for good, but that a (very expensive) operation might be of some help.

Trying to think of ways of raising the money, an angry and almost suicidal Ruben finds himself a boarder at an institution to help the deaf, run by Joe (Raci), while Lou goes to live with her estranged French father (Amalric).

After a start filled with fury, resentment and self-pity, Ruben becomes immersed in the life of the community. But at the back of his mind he is still desperate to resume his former life. He sells his RV and prepares to have the operation...

Undeterred by the fact that a high percentage of his dialogue consists of 'f**k!' and its derivatives, Ahmed almost miraculously carves out a memorable and riveting portrait of loneliness and desperation. It is, for sure, the actor's finest hour.

As for the rest of the film, I find myself at a loss to understand the praise heaped upon it. It is very slow, with long-held shots of the countryside, distant pauses between brief lines of dialogue and, Ahmed apart, an almost total lack of character. And Cooke is rather disappointing. Looking back at the glories of The Limehouse Golem and TV's Vanity Fair, it seems that she needs to be at the centre of things to fully express her talent. Subsidiary roles like this one do not suit her.

David Quinlan

USA 2020. UK Distributor: Amazon Studios. Colour by FotoKem.
120 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 25 Jan 2021