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Stars: Emilia Jones, Troy Kotsur, Marlee Matlin, Daniel Durant, Eugenio Derbez, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, John Fiore, Amy Forsyth

Director: Sian Heder

Young adult movies meet social drama meet high school musical. It shouldn't really work, but it is, in writer-director Heder's loving hands, quite brilliant. The framework of the story is actually pretty hackneyed, but the acting, writing and partially unusual subject matter make for thrilling, emotive cinema. A deserved winner of the Best Picture Oscar at the March 2022 Academy Awards.

CODA stands for child of deaf adults, and that's Ruby Rossi (English actress Jones, an enchanting star find), the hearing daughter of an otherwise deaf fishing family (Kotsur, Matlin, Durant). The Rossis are a crude and vulgar couple constantly having sex and living in a tip, but majoring in warmth. It's a happy home with a sign hanging up saying 'Bless This Mess'.

Meanwhile, in her final year at high school, Ruby fancies good-looking Miles (Irish actor Walsh-Peelo from Sing Street) and, seeing him enrol for choir classes, and being a fervent singer of pop songs herself, impulsively follows suit.

At first too nervous to sing, she soon comes under the wing of choirmaster/piano teacher Mr V (the charismatic Derbez) who, perceiving her latent talent, drives her hard.

As the director (herself from Massachusetts) pulls pretty well every emotional string (and gives us some funny scenes too), only the hardest of hearts will resist a tear at the end, especially as Ruby's audition piece for music college is Joni Mitchell's Clouds/Both Sides, Now, one of the best songs ever written.

Equally at home singing, signing or working on the boat, Jones (daughter of Aled), is, despite the excellence of those around her, the heart and soul of a film that you don't want to end. And it just doesn't get any better than that.

David Quinlan

USA/Canada 2020. UK Distributor: Apple (Pathe). Colour (unspecified).
107 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12.

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

Review date: 25 May 2022