“Sound of Metal” is a pretty special cinematic experience.

Anchored by an award-worthy performance from Riz Ahmed, this is a powerful drama that immerses the audience in its lead character’s world as well as any film in recent memory. It is one of 2020’s best films.

Ahmed plays Ruben, a heavy metal drummer and recovering addict who loses his hearing in the middle of a show.

At first Ruben is hopeful the hearing loss is temporary, but after consulting with a doctor he is faced with a cold hard truth – not only will his hearing not return to normal, his condition will likely worsen.

With the help of his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke), Ruben checks into a facility run by a man named Joe (Paul Raci) with the hope of helping him adjust to going deaf and preventing him from a possible relapse.

“Sound of Metal” was written and directed by Darius Marder, who has a keen sense of the struggles of the deaf community as well as the struggles of an addict.

His screenplay, adapted from a story from Derek Cianfrance and co-written by Abraham Marder, really takes that keen sense and creates a film that feels authentic and full of raw emotion.

Marder’s direction also gets to the heart of the subject matter – with creative use of sound editing capturing Ruben’s hearing loss in a way that really heightens the dramatic impact of this sudden change in his life.

Raci’s mentor is a compelling piece of work that only adds to the authenticity, while Cooke has some solid moments as the supportive girlfriend who isn’t sure how to help the man she loves.

But it’s Ahmed who really takes this film to another level, with an absolutely star-making turn as Ruben.

From the opening scene when the character starts to experience the hearing loss that will turn his world completely inside out, Ahmed perfectly captures Ruben’s struggles.

This is a man who is completely disoriented, trying to tackle deafness the same way he tackled his addictions but frustrated that he can’t fix it.

Ahmed is able to convey all the anger and confusion with very few words.

We can see the pain in his eyes and his facial expressions, the desperate need to adapt and get things back to normal that give way to an acceptance that this is the new normal.

His transformation is fascinating and one of the reasons that “Sound of Metal” is one of the most emotional films of 2020.

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