Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Ruby (Emilia Jones) is the sole hearing member of a deaf family – a CODA, child of deaf adults. Her life revolves around acting as interpreter for her parents (Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur) and working on the family’s struggling fishing boat every day before school with her father and older brother (Daniel Durant). But when Ruby joins her high school’s choir club, she discovers a gift for singing and soon finds herself drawn to her duet partner Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). Encouraged by her enthusiastic, tough-love choirmaster (Eugenio Derbez) to apply to a prestigious music school, Ruby finds herself torn between the obligations she feels to her family and the pursuit of her own dreams.

Family drama is perhaps the most difficult to traverse, especially when it comes to someone needing help or a favor. The struggle between wanting to live your own life and do your own thing and sacrificing for your loved ones is not always an easy decision. Moreover, it’s not always life and death. On most occasions, it’s having to sacrifice time and/or money. Part of you feels obligated to do what you can even if means you have to suffer in silence. On the flip side, you may feel like you’re the one that everyone comes to and you’ve finally had enough. Now perception has kicked in and you don’t want to be viewed as a jerk but you know that you’re not. Nevertheless, you’re stuck in somewhat of a lose-lose situation. I can’t tell you what to do but when it comes down to it, you only have one true family. It really just comes down to you.

“My stuff is important too.”

Writer and director Siân Heder provides us with a unique yet very real perspective in the award-winning family drama, CODA. This film is an eye-opening and emotional story of sacrifice, perseverance, and difficult decisions. Also, love as well. First off, over the past few years, it has been delightful to see the deaf community being respectfully represented in mainstream art and entertainment like never before. CODA is not a throwaway drama nor is it a simple feel-good story, this film delves into the lives and difficulties of two underrepresented groups of people, those who are deaf and children of deaf adults, or CODA. It also tells a universal story of self vs. family; to pursue one’s dreams or sacrifice your future to help your family. The film feels very authentic and unfolds in a genuine way.

This is honestly one of the most organic and real family dynamics that I’ve witnessed in a while. They’re selfish, loving, caring, horny, happy, miserable, forgiving, understanding, and are probably alike like your household. It’s never all one emotional, which I enjoyed. The film also is filled with great music and wonderful singing throughout as well as an innocent and awkward love connection. With great writing, direction, and a breakout performance by Emilia Jones, it’s easy to see why this film was beloved at Sundance this year. You’ll laugh, you may cry, but most importantly, you’ll be grateful for the experience. I thoroughly enjoyed CODA. Its rewatchability is high.

Emilia Jones, Troy Kotsur, Marlee Matlin and Daniel Durant in “CODA,” premiering globally on Apple TV+ on August 13, 2021.
Eugenio Derbez in “CODA,” premiering globally on Apple TV+ on August 13, 2021.

Pacing & Pop

I’m not sure if it was the somewhat rare and interesting subject matter or the storytelling, but the pacing feels rather brisk. However, it’s not brisk in an unpleasant way. The film simply doesn’t add any unnecessary moments nor does it linger too long on any one scene. It tells its story in an efficient and touching fashion. What popped for me was the story itself. This is a realm of human existence that isn’t explored enough and as someone that loves to learn cultures and aspects of life, I really enjoyed it a great deal.

Daniel Durant in “CODA,” premiering globally on Apple TV+ on August 13, 2021.
Emilia Jones and Eugenio Derbez in “CODA,” premiering globally on Apple TV+ on August 13, 2021.

Characters & Chemistry

Emilia Jones delivers a fantastic performance as Ruby. The range of emotion she offers as well as singing and signing the entire film is impressive. I wasn’t too aware of her beforehand but she will be on my radar going forward. Marlee Matlin is as amazing as always as the mother, Jackie. The chemistry she has with fellow deaf actor Troy Kotsur who plays her husband, Frank is highly entertaining. Kotsur brings the funny. Daniel Durant as Leo brings the fire and drive. He adds complexity as well as balance to the story. I also enjoyed the performance of Eugenio Derbez as Mr. V. He’s the no-nonsense teacher that we all need.

CODA premieres on Apple TV+ and select theaters on August 13, 2021. Stay safe and enjoy.

Director: Siân Heder

Writer: Siân Heder

Producers: Philippe Rousselet, Fabrice Gianfermi, Patrick Wachsberger, Jérôme Seydoux

Executive Producers: Ardavan Safaee, Sarah Borch-Jacobsen

Rated: PG-13

Runtime: 1h 52m

Rating: 4 out of 5

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