photo courtesy of Apple
Claiming the title of the Oscars 2022 Best Picture is director Sian Heder’s original film, “CODA,” which has set records for becoming the first Best Picture to feature a cast of deaf actors. Trailblazing and groundbreaking are just a few words to describe how this film goes above and beyond to spread inclusion with a heartfelt and meaningful message.
“CODA” is no exception to the ongoing diversification of the film industry. Using real deaf actors in this movie helps shine a light on an underrepresented group of individuals and also adds to the genuineness of the film. The excellence portrayed by the actors really identifies the challenges faced by deaf people in general and being CODA(Child of Deaf Adults) is the toughest of it all.
As a Child of Deaf Adults and the only hearing person in her family, high school senior Ruby Rossi(Emilia Jones) always has a lot on her plate. Indeed, trying to juggle back-breaking work on her father’s fishing boat, schoolwork, social life, and the family’s expectations can be too much for a teenager. But do her parents know Ruby loves to sing? When Ruby signs up for the school choir, singing becomes a passion, and suddenly, the talented young girl finds herself at a crossroads: should Ruby spread her wings and follow her dreams, or should she keep fighting everyday battles as a member of the proud Rossi family.
The film opens with a panning shot of rolling waves on a bright and sunny day. Ruby begins to sing over a recording of Etta James’ “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” on a fishing boat in Massachusetts. From the start, I knew the film would be captivating because of its innovative cinematography and music.
Ruby’s struggle to balance her own ambitions with her family forms the backbone of the movie. She is finishing high school and considers studying music in college, but she’s not sure that college is even a possibility. Ruby’s struggles are pivotal toward creating a connection between the characters and the audience. I, myself, felt part of the stress Ruby experienced throughout the film. Balancing social life with friends and family, and that being on top of school is no piece of cake.
While on the other hand, Ruby’s father Frank (Troy Kutsor), and brother Leo (newcomer Daniel Durant) struggle to make ends meet with their fishing business as new fees and sanctions are imposed by the local board. At a board meeting, Frank stands and announces that he is starting his own company to get around the new restrictions and sell his fish on his own. However, the family struggles to get the company off the ground, relying on Ruby to talk to people and spread the word.
Throughout the entirety of the film, Frank and Leo’s storyline was beautifully intertwined with the hustle of being a middle-class worker and the inspiring story that comes along with it. Despite the countless times Frank and Leo are let down they continuously strive for greatness.
Ruby’s family attends her choir recital, and while they cannot hear her sing, they notice the enthusiastic response from the audience. This scene is crucial in the film because it shows the entire family coming together despite their struggles and personal demons. The entire Rossi family can put their differences aside and focus on the incredible daughter that they have raised.
That night, the entire family then drives to Boston with Ruby for her Berklee audition; they are not supposed to enter the audition hall, but they sneak up to the balcony to watch anyway. Ruby is nervous at first but gains confidence when she sees her family; she signs along with the song so they can understand what she is saying. This emotional moment exemplifies the flawless characteristic storytelling and captivating interactions performed within the deaf family, which have proven to be incredibly investing, deeply elevating the overall piece.
The songs used in the movie are so soothing and mesmerizing that it helps you as a viewer to delve deeper into the movie and back on the emotional rollercoaster they are on. This movie is part drama, part comedy, and part coming of age story.
However, the story of Coda is a bit cliché. Just by reading the ingredients, you can already see where this movie is going. So no real surprises in Coda, you will exactly know the outcome way long before the ending. That said, it’s still an enjoyable movie to watch. A little bit emotional sometimes, which is almost normal as you feel compassion for the deaf people and certainly for the daughter that has a lot on her plate. However, the main takeaway was the film’s ability to educate and spread a meaningful message regarding the deaf community and how they are perceived by our society.