“Serenity is no longer wishing you had a different past.”


I suspect that the title Sound of Metal risks putting off many who would appreciate this thoughtful drama in which drummer Ruben’s metal career features only briefly — we join him as he begins to experience profound hearing loss, his girlfriend and bandmate forcing him to abandon their tour in order to deal with his new condition. Although its focus is on deafness, Sound of Metal is ultimately about loss and grief. The Kübler-Ross model has been discredited but the story can be seen as charting Ruben’s journey through those popularised “five stages” from denial to acceptance. Riz Ahmed’s Oscar-nominated performance is nuanced, particularly in respect of Ruben’s past addiction which is never shown but bubbles as an ever-present danger beneath the surface, occasionally emerging in his behaviour. Most impressive, however, is the sound design which shifts continually between Ruben’s perspective and a neutral one, not only during pivotal scenes but also the mundane. A muffled, muted soundscape that is suddenly filled with the noise of the road or clattering cutlery reminds us of the lost details that were missing in a scene; the eratic approximation produced by a cochlear implant is disquieting in every sense. Sound of Metal may lack any profound new insight, but it is engrossing and should inspire self-reflection in its audience.