Sound of Metal is a 2019 American drama film directed and co-written by Darius Marder. It stars Riz Ahmed as a metal drummer who loses his hearing, and also features Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Lauren Ridloff, and Mathieu Amalric.
Ruben is a drummer and one half of the heavy metal duo Blackgammon, along with the singer and his girlfriend, Lou. They live in an RV and tour the United States performing gigs. When Ruben begins to lose his hearing, he goes to a pharmacy seeking a diagnosis. The pharmacist refers him to a doctor, who finds that Ruben has lost most of his hearing, and that the rest will deteriorate rapidly. Although cochlear implants may benefit him, their high cost is not covered by insurance. The doctor suggests that Ruben eliminate all exposure to loud noises and undergo further testing, but Ruben continues to perform.
Lou wants to stop performing for his safety, but Ruben wants to continue. She is also concerned about his sobriety, as he is a recovering drug addict. They call his sponsor, Hector, who finds a rural shelter for deaf recovering addicts run by a man named Joe, a recovering alcoholic who lost his hearing in the Vietnam War. Ruben leaves with Lou because they will not let her live there with him and he wants only the implants. Lou, anxious for his wellbeing, leaves and persuades Ruben to return to the shelter.
Ruben meets the other members of the shelter, attends meetings and settles into his new life. He is introduced to schoolteacher Diane and the children in her class, and begins to learn American Sign Language. Joe tasks Ruben with writing and sitting peacefully in an effort to make him comfortable with the silence. Ruben joins Diane’s class and connects with the children and the rest of the community. He gives the children and Diane drumming lessons.
Joe invites Ruben to stay as an employee of the community. Ruben illicitly uses Joe’s office computer to follow Lou’s activities, and learns she is performing music in Paris. He has his friend Jenn sell his drums and other music equipment, then sells his RV, using the money for cochlear implant surgery. Ruben asks Joe to loan him money to buy back his RV while he awaits activation of the implants. Joe refuses, saying that Ruben is behaving like an addict. He asks Ruben to leave the community, as it is founded on the belief that deafness is not a handicap.
Ruben has his implants activated, but is disappointed by their distorted sound. He flies to Paris to meet Lou at the home of her wealthy father, Richard. Richard confides in Ruben that though he initially disliked him, he recognizes that Ruben made Lou happy. Lou has settled into her new lifestyle and has ceased self-harming. At a party at the house, Lou and Richard perform a duet; Ruben’s perception of the sound is distorted by the implants.
When Ruben tells Lou he wants to return to their music, she begins scratching her arms. Ruben tells her all is well and that she saved his life. She tells him that he saved hers too. The next morning, Ruben takes his things and leaves while Lou is sleeping. In a park, the ringing of a church bell is distorted by his implants; Ruben removes his processors and sits in silence.
Riz Ahmed as Ruben Stone, a drummer who loses his hearing
Olivia Cooke as Lou Berger, Ruben’s girlfriend
Paul Raci as Joe, a late-deafened and recovering alcoholic who runs a shelter for deaf recovering addicts
Lauren Ridloff as Diane, a teacher who helps Ruben learn American Sign Language
Mathieu Amalric as Richard Berger, Lou’s father
Michael Tow as the Pharmacis
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