Coda (M, 112mins) Directed by Sian Heder ****½
She may be the youngest member of the Rossi family, but Ruby (Emilia Jones) is the key to the family’s fortune.
When she’s not at school, she’s on the fishing boat or at the docks helping her father Frank (Troy Kotsur) and brother Leo (Daniel Durant) get the best price for their catch.
This is because she is the only hearing person in her house, a situation that forced her to grow up quickly.
Coda is based on the 2014 French film La famille Bélier.
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Sure, she loves the dockside jokes, coping with her mother Jackie’s (Marlee Matlin) love of playing hip-hop at full volume (“I like rap because my whole ass is vibrating,” sign she says happily), but restrains herself from having to accompany her parents to an appointment with their doctor for an intimate medical problem. So when the GP recommends that they avoid sex for two weeks, she informs them that they must abstain permanently.
But living with a family that seems to share everything, including Leo’s Tinder searches, weighs heavily on Ruby. Falling asleep in class and frustrated that her rare attempts to escape into a world of music would be considered rude by her mother, she decides to take up choir as an option, despite her best friend’s opposition – “are you you aren’t already socially challenged enough around here”.
After initially being offside with Professor Bernardo Villalobos (Eugenio Derbez) – he asks her if she’s “an alto, a soprano, or if she’s just watched too many episodes of Joy– Ruby’s talent eventually wins out and she’s selected to perform a duet with the shy Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). As the pair grow closer and ‘Mr V’ encourages him to consider applying for a music scholarship, his mother voices her opposition to his ‘trivial’ pursuit. “If I was blind, would you want to paint?” she scolds.
However, when an industrial downturn and an incident on board threaten the family’s livelihood, Ruby finds herself forced to face an unenviable and difficult choice.
An English (and American Sign Language) adaptation of the 2014 French hit The Aries family, Coda (short for Child of Deaf Adults) is a rare example of a successful transplant that actually improves on the original.
RAM The backdrop of the French dairy farm becomes a close-knit coastal American community, the one we know from dramas like The Perfect Storm, Blow up the man Where Manchester by the sea.
While following many of the same narrative rhythms as Gallic Ramsit tightens the societal pressures surrounding Ruby, makes support and acceptance of the Rossis more genuine, and allows saltier language and mean one-liners to seep into the story.
Much of the credit goes to writer-director Sian Heder (TV’s Orange is the new black), which delivered the perfect balance of heart and humor, beautifully integrated sign language organically into the story, and featured a quintet of performances (it’s easy to see why this dominated the awards show at the Sundance Film Festival last year, despite being the opening night film, and managed to win a trio of Oscars, including Best Picture, some 14 months later).
Oscar winner for Children of a lesser God, Matlin fought hard to get her fellow deaf actors cast, and in Kotsur and Durant her persistence was rewarded with the discovery of two major talents. Their nuanced, often scene-stealing turns are joined by Derbez (Dora and the Lost City of Gold), turning what could have been a clichéd “taciturn but inspiring teacher” persona into something far more memorable, supporting a truly wonderful starring role for the London-born actor Jones (Netflix’s locke and key).
Heder directs beautifully, even allowing the audience to briefly experience Rossi’s silent world, but it’s Jones who pulls us into Ruby’s growing dilemma, forces us to make her succeed, and will likely leave you in tears with her filled finale. of emotion. performance. You will never be able to listen to those of Joni Mitchell Both sides now roughly the same way.
Coda is now streaming on Apple TV+. A version of this article first appeared August 2021.