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CODA (Sundance Review)

CODA (Sundance Review)
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PLOT: Ruby (Emilia Jones) is a Child Of Deaf Adults (the abbreviation of which gives the film its title - Coda). The only hearing member in her household, she helps her parents (Marlee Matlin & Troy Kotsur) make their living on the family fishing boat, alongside her brother (Daniel Durant). A deeply gifted singer, her life starts to change when she joins a choir run by a tough-love choirmaster (Eugenio Derbez) who believes in her, but does pursuing her dream mean leaving her family behind?

REVIEW: Immediately following its debut, CODA, which was the opening night movie at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, found itself at the center of a bidding war, with apparently most major distributors offering big bucks for its worldwide rights. It’s easy to see why. CODA is a lovely family drama, anchored by some incredible performances and a big heart at its center. It’s Sundance’s best opening night movie since Whiplash and seems sure to become a cross-over hit. A streamer would be wise to pick this up for release in the next few months as it’s a thoroughly pleasant film - something we all need right now.

coda Sundance review

In many ways it's a very conventional movie, albeit about a very unconventional subject. Our heroine, Ruby, wants to spread her wings and live a life beyond the fishing town she grew up in, but she’s needed by her family, with the unconventional catch being that they’re all hearing impaired. She’s their defacto interpreter and the one that keeps them from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous sellers where they try to offload their fish.

What makes this great is that it’s not a “savior” film. While the family relies on her, the idea here isn’t that she should be their crutch. Like Sound of Metal, this movie treats its deaf characters as fully rounded humans. They’re occasionally crude, often horny, and perhaps a little headstrong, but they don’t need pity. It helps that the three deaf co-stars are all played by people that are hearing impaired. Marlee Matlin, who’s already got an Oscar on her mantle, is the gorgeous mom, who wants to hold onto her daughter, but not just because she can hear. She’s hilarious and headstrong, but the scene-stealer here has to be Troy Kotsur as the family’s crude but big-hearted patriarch. Kotsur’s had an interesting career - even playing a Tusken Raider on The Mandalorian, and he sinks his teeth into this great role. Ditto Daniel Durant as her supportive big brother, while Eugenio Derbez adds some star power as the nice-guy music teacher who wants his student to spread her wings.

coda Sundance film festival

In the end though, a movie like this lives or dies by its lead, and no doubt Emilia Jones is a star in the making as the headstrong, tough, and vulnerable Ruby, and boy can she sing. In many ways, her performance here reminds me of Jessie Buckley in Wild Rose, and like her, I expect we’ll be seeing lots of her in the years to come.

It’s also a beautifully directed film, with Sian Heder making a big-hearted film with some real style. Most noteworthy is the way she handles ASL (American Sign Language). Whether or not we see subtitles depends on whether or not the character being spoken to understands it. When they speak among themselves, we get signing. When they sign in front of a hearing person, you don’t see anything, and it's a nice bit of realism.

Overall, CODA is a lovely movie and seems sure to be coming to viewers pretty soon, no matter who buys it. It’s a great little flick and worth keeping an eye out for. Breakout hits like this are the reason I love Sundance.

Source: JoBlo.com

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