‘Sound of Metal’ offers deft exploration of deafness through drummer portrayed by Riz Ahmed

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Ahmed is powerful as Ruben, a punk-metal drummer who, after years of sitting in the thunderous center of loud-and-abrasive music, experiences rapidly worsening hearing loss and suddenly faces an extremely uncertain future.

Beyond being a showcase for Ahmed’s talents, however, director Darius Marder “Sound of Metal” — recently released in theaters and landing on Amazon’s Prime Video streaming platform this week — is a highly compelling drama offering a rare window into deafness. Although Ruben is driven to find a fix for his problem, he soon is surrounded by caring folks who do not see deafness as a disability.

We meet Ruben on stage, the drummer soon banging his way through another show on his band’s current tour.

His hearing has begun to trouble him, but he keeps that to himself, chatting with Lou about the meaning of Meatloaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” and other important topics as they drive their equipment-packed vehicle to the next show.

Joe (Paul Raci), who lost his hearing while serving in Vietnam, runs a sober house for the deaf. Ruben does not want what Joe is selling — the former thinks the answer to his problem is the very-expensive surgery for cochlear implants — but Lou forces him to stay at the house.
Living in the deaf community is extremely difficult for Ruben at first, but, of course, he eventually assimilates, learning American Sign Language and even becoming something akin to a music teacher for some of the children.

(T)his is a very thoughtful story, one that never promises the happiest of endings. Marder spent time immersing himself in the deaf community of Brooklyn, New York, and “Sound of Metal” always feels as if it’s treating its larger subject matter with great respect.

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