The Sound of Metal

We might not have noticed this Amazon Original without a recommendation from viewers in Germany (Dankeschön!) In fact, the opening segment might have been off-putting, a documentary-like heavy metal musical segment from a band called Blackgammon playing an earsplitting track with a screaming vocal, incendiary guitar and intense percussion. I’m not sure if their sound qualifies as “screamo,” lacking perhaps the right punk influence, but the volume is way up there, and contributes to the story line.

But hang in there. Riz Ahmed plays Ruben Stone, a drummer who’s rapidly losing his hearing. A drug addict four years clean on the power of his relationship with Lu, played by Olivia Cooke, they tour with their band in a custom RV, supporting each other with healthy smoothies, exercise, dance and affection. This is after all, a love story, despite the tattoo on Ruben’s chest that reads, “Someone Kill Me.”

 

Ahmed is a British Pakistani actor, rapper and activist you might recognize from Four LionsJason Bourne and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. He was listed as one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2017 on the strength of a nomination by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

 

Cooke starred in 2018’s Life Itself and TV work including Bates Motel and Vanity Fair.

 

The audio engineering in The Sound of Metal immerses you in the experience of losing your hearing. Unlike so many films that have a character repeat out loud the sign language being used, the viewer is as initially helpless as Ruben, and you feel his depression and frustration, especially as a musician. 

 

Following a recent ear infection I experienced a similar series of events shown when Ruben struggles to clear his ears and eventually sees an audiologist. But despite the time he spends benefiting from and contributing to a sequestered deaf community, the cochlear implant he chooses to fund with all of his worldly possessions is a brutal little procedure that he hopes will “fix” the problem that the deaf community doesn’t feel needs fixing. Embrace the stillness.

 

The Sound of Metal is thoughtful, well-acted and doesn’t resort to gratuitous sex, violence or cheap gimmickry. 

 

Written and directed by Darius Marder, this project may be an important addition to his small portfolio.

 

 

The Sound of Metal (2019) runs exactly 2 hours and is rated R.

 

 

Kajillionaire

Richard Jenkins is one of those familiar character actors you just can’t place. Most recently he had a lead role in The Last Shift, a mostly overlooked pandemic casualty from 2020. He has an eclectic film resume that includes The Shape of Water, Step Brothers, The Cabin in the Woods, White House Down and many others. In Kajillionaire he is Robert, father to the strangely named Old Dolio played by Evan Rachel Wood, and husband of Theresa, played by the almost unrecognizable Debra Winger. We know Wood most recently from her lead role in the series reboot of Westworld

 

These three are an essentially homeless family who wander through the streets of California looking for loose change, stealing mail and surviving day to day as career scammers. They rent office space attached to a business called Bubbles that oozes pink suds three times daily. They diligently scoop the foam from the adjoining wall in order to prevent damage and mold. Perhaps that value contributes to the owner’s tolerance of chronically late rent and unending promises of payment. Meanwhile, they live in superstitious fear of “the big one” and the electric power of frequent earthquakes.

 

Old Dolio has been raised more as a tool than a daughter. The family precisely splits the proceeds of scams three ways in a loveless business relationship. The parents only acknowledge 18 of their daughter’s 26 years, keeping her just short of adulthood, entirely dependent and constantly seeking emotional approval. Her husky-voiced, deadpan persona is that of a shell-shocked dumpster diver experiencing the world with a sense of forbidden wonder. Enter Miranda, an enthused random accessory encountered mid-heist on a turbulent airplane ride, and a possible casualty of her own parents’ dysfunctional relationship. Here the story takes on a new dimension as a love story that gives purpose and eventual resolution to the film.

 

This is a quirky low budget movie with an Indie feel, directed by Miranda July and with an Executive Producer credit by Brad Pitt. It showed up on a “best of 2020” list when searching for a movie to watch during our continuing theater blackout. It was $5.99 on Amazon, held our interest throughout and might gain traction once discovered.

 

 

Kajillionaire (2020) runs 1 hour 44 minutes and is rated R.

 

 

 

No Time to Die

We saw the long-awaited James Bond film recently. And not surprisingly, I began this review with the wrong title, not that it matters. The f...