HOLLYWOOD—I have been hearing so much and I mean so much about the movie “CODA” I just had to cave in and finally watch it and I loved every single minute of it. This is a movie that breaks your heart, puts it back together to only break your heart all over again. It is one of those films that just inspire you and makes you want to be better as a human being. For those not in the know ‘CODA’ stands for Child of Deaf Adults and for me this movie is a bit more personal, I know quite a few people in the deaf community and some of the plights they encounter on a daily basis is just gut-wrenching.
“CODA” tackles some of those issues, but at the same time, I have heard a gripe from some in the deaf community who don’t like the notion of being portrayed as victims. I do feel as if the movie plays with that dichotomy to a degree, but it is not so persistent that it drags the movie down. The plot follows Emilia Jones as Ruby Rossi, the only member of her family who can actually hear. Her parents, Frank (Troy Kotsur) and Jackie (Marlee Matlin) are deaf, as well as her older brother, Leo (Daniel Durant).
Ruby acts as the voice for her family who utilize American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. Ruby does tackle a bit of pressure daily being the voice for her family, when others refuse to accommodate them. The notion of communication is something that really struck me at the emotional core watching “CODA.” We are always expecting people to accommodate us, but we sometimes don’t consider going that extra mile or being a little patient to accommodate those who may not be like us who need help.
“CODA” sends a very strong message: deaf people while they cannot hear are still able to do what everyone else can. They are not disabled nor do they want to be perceived that way either. They can do everything everyone else does and if we as decent human beings just took a moment to realize that we would realize that. The movie’s director Sian Heder does a fantastic job of placing the audience into the world of the deaf community as the Rossi family attends one of Ruby’s choir recital where we hear complete silence. You might think for a second that something is wrong, but it is not. The director is inviting us into the deaf world and it can be haunting, having people whisper and talk about you, and act like just because you can’t hear what they’re saying the person has no idea that you are talking about them behind their back.
Ruby has to handle business matters for the fishing business, dealing with the mean girls at school that tease her about her family and it’s a crushing blow to witness as a spectator. That bullying aspect really annoyed me, but kids are cruel that is just a fact people. Her talent to sing is her escape, a gift that no one in her family knows about, but she is encouraged to pursue it thanks to her musical teacher Mr. V (Eugenio Derbez). That struggle for Ruby to balance helping her father and brother with the family fishing business and pursuing a career in music by attending college is something the audience can sympathize with. I know I wouldn’t be able to do what Ruby does in the movie.
Kotsur is a standout in a role that balances superb comedic talent, with heart, anger and frustration at times proves why he is the front-runner for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. The moments shared between Ruby and Frank are just touching. Then on the flipside you have that tense mother and daughter relationship with Ruby and Jackie, played with perfection by Matlin. These two don’t always mesh and it is powerful to witness. Jackie doesn’t always see the predicaments that Ruby are forced to be placed in to help her family. Ruby gets frustrated and lashes out as her mother as a result. The movie does a excellent job of balancing drama with comedy and that comedy is quite potent in the
Another dynamic examined is the sibling relationship between brother and sister. Leo has a bit of jealously against his sister who is see as a saint by her parents for stepping in and handling business and personal matters that they can’t always handle themselves. As Leo explains to his sister in a pivotal scene, Ruby has to allow them to handle things for themselves; they are not helpless, they might not be able to hear, but that doesn’t mean they cannot communicate with the rest of the world.
“CODA” absolutely has all-star acting talent, but its Jones who steals the spotlight with a performance that is so layered, so powerful and so gripping you cannot take your eyes off of her when she appears on the screen and when she is NOT on the screen you cannot wait until she returns. “CODA” invites the world into the deaf world just for a snippet; for us to have an idea what it is like for a deaf person to navigate in a world where everyone else can hear. It opens our eyes to the plight of those who have to communicate without having sound. They might not be able to hear, but they still have all the same wants and needs of all other Americans.