CODA
(***˝)-VITO CARLI

"While-predictable, it has much more emotional resonance than many more original films..."

Emotional Depth Outshines Predictable Plot

(031822) Coda is a heartwarming and deeply inspirational coming of age family drama about a young woman with dreams that conflict with her family’s long-term plans. Rarely have I seen the theme of the conflict of family responsibilities vs. personal self-actualization explored better. The film also gives us a rare cinematic glimpse into deaf culture and life (as did the recent The Sound of Metal). The title stands for Child of Deaf Adults. Coda is a remake of the 2014 French film, La Famille Belier which I have not yet seen. The film has gotten mostly (but not unanimously) great reviews and it has been nominated for Best Motion Picture. It was also nominated for best motion picture-drama and best supporting actor at the 79th Golden Globes.

The film takes place in a small, quaint fishing town of Gloucester, Massachusetts. A tight knit family fishes together and they are able to make ends meet, but the government makes it harder on them with increasing fines and regulations. I have rarely seen a more convincing on-screen family. Part of the reason that they are so convincing might be that all of the actors who play the family members (except Ruby) are hearing impaired in real life.

All the characters are well-developed and nuanced. The dad is a salty, pot smoking hippy type played excellently by Troy Kotsur. He has a heart of gold that loves comical profanity. Marleen Matlin (of Children of a Lesser God) is just as good playing his wife, Jackie, a former model who will do anything for her family. The brother, Leo (Daniel Durant) cares about his sister but he is occasionally irritated because she gets more attention and he even derogatorily call her “Saint Ruby.” Like many teens, Ruby is frequently embarrassed by her families’ vulgarity and her their openness about their healthy sexual relationship. Where does she think she came from?

Coda focuses on the one hearing (non-deaf) member of the family: Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones). One day, Emilia discovers that Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), the hunky young man she has a crush on has signed up for the choir. Ruby has always liked singing, especially when she is on the fishing boat and at one point early on she sings an intense version of Etta James’ “Something’s Got a Hold on Me”. Ruby’s mom is basically good natured but she seems to resent the fact that her daughter picked an interest the family cannot share in. She regularly comforts herself by insisting it's just a passing phase Ruby is going through.

Ruby flourishes under the guidance of the stern, but dedicated Mr. V (Eugenio Derbez) who recognizes her talent. He is so impressed by her that he encourages her to pursue further education and for her to apply for a scholarship at his alma mater. He recognizes her talent but doesn't hesitate to dress her down a few times for tardiness when her developing love for Miles or her family responsibilities cause her to be late for practice. Some of these scenes could have come straight from the Fame TV series-except Mr. V has much better taste in music as he has his students sing Joni Mitchell and David Bowie songs.

When the government passes a new mandate for fishing boats that a person who can hear must be on the boat at all times, the films main conflict goes into play. Will Ruby get a chance to go away to music school? Will she leave her family in their time of need? And what about Miles? You will have just to watch the film to find out! Some reviewers have criticized Coda because they say it is formulaic, and sometimes it does seem like six or seven different films thrown into one. But I could overlook that because the plot elements are woven together so well and the film is so perfectly cast. While somewhat predictable, it has much more emotional resonance than many films that are more original. Despite a bit of profanity and some brief cannabis use (Is anyone really horrified at pot use anymore), it would make excellent viewing for both families and individuals of most ages.
 

Directed & Written by:    Sian Heder, adapted from the movie: "La Famille
 Belier" written by Hedler and others.
Starring:    Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Troy Kotsur
Released:    081321 (USA)
Length:    111minutes
Rating:    Rated PG-13 for strong sexual content, and
 language and drug use
Available On:    The film is still playing at some Chicago area
 theatres, but it is available for streaming on Apple
 TV.

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org and www.chicagopoetry.org. His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

Vittorio will host a lecture/work shop for the Chicago Poetry Festival at Mount Greenwood Library on April 2 at 2:00 pm on Poetry and Punk

CODA © 2022 Vendome Pictures
Review © 2022 Alternate Reality, Inc.

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