Thursday, January 28, 2021

Sundance 2021 Review: CODA (2021)

When I was in college, we were required to take a language credit as one of our core classes. I had taken German in high school, but didn’t really want to take it again. My girlfriend at the time told me she was going to take ASL and suggested I do the same. So I did. And I loved it. It’s a beautiful language and taking those classes provided me with an experience I will never forget, one that opened my eyes to a whole community of amazing, talented people. It’s something that everyone should learn at some point in their life. So when I heard about CODA, I was instantly drawn to it.

CODA (which stands for ‘Child Of Deaf Adults’) tells the story of Ruby Rossi, the only hearing member of a deaf family, who works on her family’s fishing boat everyday before school in an attempt to keep the business afloat. But after discovering her passion for singing, Ruby must decide what she wants for her life, as she is torn between her love of music and her family obligation.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this film. I mean, the subject matter interested me, and it has the incredibly talented Marlee Matlin in its cast, but sometimes you just never know, so I went into it, as I try to do with most films, with mild reservations. This was unnecessary, as this film hit all the right notes for me. From the performances, the script, the direction… it was all amazing. I laughed, I cried, I cheered, and I don’t do that for many films. So let’s dive into what I enjoyed about the film a bit. Spoiler free, of course.

This is the second feature film outing for Siân Heder, after her 2016 film Tallulah, and I’m not going to mince words here… she knocked it out of the damn park. Her ability to capture such emotion, in all of its forms, is just incredible and is showcased throughout this film. CODA is a remake of a French film called La Famille Bélier, however, it definitely doesn’t suffer from the typical remake curse, and I believe that is largely due to the sheer talent and dedication of Siân Heder.

However, no matter how good Siân is, she had to have a cast that could pull it all together, and she had that in spades. First and foremost is Emilia Jones, who plays the main character of Ruby. She was outstanding. Her ability to bear her emotions in such a way that you never doubt her is astounding. She played this like a veteran actor, even though she’s fairly fresh in the business. Then, of course you’ve got Marlee Matlin, who I’ve know since I first saw Children of a Lesser God back in high school. She’s such a shining star in not just the deaf community, but in the acting community, and I get excited anytime I see that she’s in something. And she didn’t disappoint here. She plays the worried family matron to perfection.

On the flip-side of that is Troy Kotsur, who plays Ruby’s father, Frank. He was one of my favorite parts of this whole movie. He is simply hilarious in the way he delivers his dialogue. There’s one scene in particular where he’s having a discussion about sex and I couldn’t stop laughing. It was absolutely incredible. And he wasn’t the person I thought I’d get the most laughs out of, as we also had Eugenio Derbez as Ruby’s choir teacher. While he did have some funny moments, this man, who is known more for his comedic roles, was able to bring something fantastic to a much more serious role than those I’ve seen him play.

Finally, I want to talk about the story itself, which is one of love and passion, as well as family and sacrifice. There’s a lot going on in this film, multiple story threads weaving throughout one another, yet Siân managed to keep it all flowing perfectly together at a nice pace. You get character development, you understand motivations, and I never once felt like I was lost in the story. It was beautifully told.

This was an incredible way to start off my Sundance 2021 coverage, and I am even more excited for what’s to come next! Be sure to check out CODA as soon as you’re able, because this is one people will definitely be talking about, mark my words.


The Merc’s Score: 10/10

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