Directed by Sian Heder.
The cast are Emilia Jones, Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur, Daniel Durant, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Eugenio Derbez.
A hearing child in a deaf family is torn between pursuing his love for music and trusting her family in it as a connection to the outside world.
I sat down for my first Sundance and expected some powerful films. But I never expected the first feature I saw to ruin me so quickly. CODA, the latest film from writer / director Sian Heder, knows exactly when to tear your nerves, when to make you laugh, and how to tell a compelling story.
Through this story that follows teenage Ruby, who as hearing child navigates life in a deaf family, you will learn a lot about character and what it is like to live their life. As someone who was never a fan of coming-of-age stories, I was a little nervous about following a teenage girl through life, love, and her future. Thankfully, I was open to it as I think this is the kind of story I want to see more of from now on. There’s so much to say in CODA that you don’t have to waste a moment delving into melodrama or clichés. The film drives you forward and lets you feel every authentic moment.
At the center of the film is Emilia Jones, who gives Ruby so much life and personality. She’s a complicated character, but not in the way you’d see from a cheesy Netflix version of that type of movie. No, Ruby is a layered and complex emotional character that isn’t just a teenage girl. While she may love her family, she feels the burden of being her interpreter. She wants to help them in their new business, but also to improve their lives. These are real and personal subjects that crop up around home and the movie plays them off beautifully. And Jones did it perfectly.
The young Emilia Jones is not alone in the acting department. Marlee Matlin offers a fantastic twist, but nothing is shocking given that she is such a talented actress. After years in the industry, she remains an asset that I consider valued, but there is never enough Matlin in my life. Her role here was one of her best, taking a clichéd role as « mom in a teen movie » to new heights.
Troy Kotsur and Daniel Durant play Ruby’s father and brother, respectively, and I can’t think of any better actors to round off the family in CODA. They all feel like real family, with the struggles always coming from a place of love and the warm moments coming frequently. Durant’s emotional moment in the direction of the third act sold me to him and turned him from being a “cool older brother” to an important piece of the puzzle of this film.
There is also no denying that Eugenio Derbez is his time Life as a choir teacher who brings the humor when the film needs a moment of lightness. Troy Kotsur’s fatherhood as Frank made me laugh too, but nothing like Derbez and his wonderful twist. His moments with Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Emilia Jones at the beginning of the film really sold me and he brought everything you want by the end.
The script is pretty simple and does exactly what you want from a coming Expect -of-age movie like this one. But I find that CODA avoided many of the clichés that I expected here. Sure, there’s that big dream school Ruby wants to go to, and she has the obvious argument with her love interest, but these were the only times I’ve felt like I’ve seen something like CODA before.Other than those moments, I felt like this had something new to say and something that needs to be heard. The humor and delightful moments create the message here to listen to yourself and what others say to you. Whether it’s ASL or you’re speaking, you have to stop and absorb it all before going down a path that you see right.
Director Sian Heder comes into play with a film that is called emotional powerhouse and crowd puller acts. Heder did a wonderful job too, doing a low key musical here, with music being a big part of the film. The last performance of the film brought me to tears, which was probably my third time torn apart throughout the viewing. Every time you approach Joni Mitchell and set it up for some warm and loving scenes, you’re guaranteed to make a fan of me.
CODA is the kind of film I see and have seen warm hearts around the world got to. With three talented Deaf actors, you will see that there is room for everyone in the cinematic landscape, just as the film tries to tell you that there is a place for everyone in the real world. Create stories for the deaf, hire more deaf actors for your films, and maybe you can come up with such a compelling film.
Filed under: EJ Moreno, Movies, Reviews, Sundance Film Festival Tagged With: Coda, Daniel Durant, Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Marlee Matlin, Sian Heder, Sundance Film Festival 2021, Troy Kotsur
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