Reel Reviews | CODA

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

The child of deaf parents discovers that music is her passion and she loves to sing in the drama, CODA.

Not only is high school teenager Ruby Rossi a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), she is the child of a deaf family being the only one in her family of fishermen who can hear. She spends her time working on the family boat and being the bridge between the deaf world of her family and the hearing world around them. One day, seemingly out of the blue for her family, Ruby decides to join the school choir. Unbeknownst to them, Ruby has a gorgeous singing voice and a passion for music. As troubles threaten the family business, Ruby must decide to follow her family or her heart.

Written and directed by Sian Heder, CODA is based upon the 2014 French film, La Famille Belier by Eric Lartigau. The movie stars Emilia Jones as Ruby, Troy Kotsur, Daniel Durant, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Molly Beth Thomas, Eugenio Derbez, and Marlee Matlin.

From the moment this movie starts and Emilia Jones starts in on Etta James’ “Something’s Got A Hold On Me,” it is perfectly clear that this movie is as much of a showcase for her talent as Respect is for Jennifer Hudson. The big difference is that where Hudson is singing to emulate the legendary Aretha Franklin, Jones is emulating herself. Each and every song that Jones performs is distinctly her own interpretation of a number of different classics. From “Let’s Get It On” to “You’re All I Need to Get By” and Joni Mitchells’ “Both Sides Now,” Heder gives us plenty of opportunities to savor the stylings of Jones and her ability.

While one would label CODA as a coming-of-age drama, the film is much more than this. It is a tale of growth, identity, and family. As much as we see Ruby grow and come into her own self, we see her family grow even more. The incredible Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin is unbelievably tender and vulnerable as the mother who fears the inability to connect with her headstrong, teenage daughter. Daniel Durant plays the older brother who is desperate to get the recognition and appreciation that Ruby automatically gets and Troy Kotsur is the father who wants the best for his family but needs help to provide it.

The most powerful force in the world is music. It unites and communicates and places everyone on common ground. It bears emotions and speaks to the soul. This movie shows us that all this is true even for those who can not hear it There is a scene that Heder sets up incredibly well where Ruby’s father is attending a concert of her daughter and although he can not hear her sing he experiences the music by seeing the way it moves the others in attendance. It is a beautifully crafted portion of the film that allows the audience to experience music the same way a deaf person would.

Rated PG-13 for strong sexual content and language and drug use, CODA is a beautiful, lyrical, and emotional odyssey that speaks to overcoming obstacles, differences and barriers. Like the music it uses, it warms from the inside and unites its viewers but most of all, it has the power to change the way we view the world we live in. It is easily one of the best films of the year.

CODA is only in theaters.

Grade: A+