(director/writer: Darius Marder; screenwriters: story by Derek Cianfrance/Abraham Marder; cinematographer: Daniël Bouquet; editors: Mikkel E.G Nielsen; music: Nicolas Becker/Abraham Marder; cast:  Riz Ahmed (Ruben), Olivia Cooke (Lou), Paul Raci (Joe), Mathieu Amalric (Richard Berger), Lauren Ridloff (Diane, Michael Tow (Pharmacist), Chris Perfetti (Harlan); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: R; producers:Sacha Ben Harroche, Bert Hamelinck; Amazon Studios; 2019-Belgium/USA-in English & French with English subtitles when needed)

“The observant film is memorable for showing us how rewarding and lyrical silence can be.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Darius Marder, in his first feature fiction film as a director, tells an unusual story about a volatile drummer named Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed, British-Pakistani actor), who sports the tattoo across his chest of  “Please Kill Me” and is shocked he’s suddenly becoming deaf. The musical drama is based on a story by Derek Cianfrance, and is co-written by Darius and his brother Abraham Marder.

Ruben plays his drums loudly for a duo metal band called Blackgammon, while his punk rock girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) plays a guitar loudly to the accompaniment of lyrics that are too muffled to be heard clearly.

Ruben and Lou live together in their modest RV. While prepping for his nighttime gig one day, in Missouri on a touring date, the former heroin addict drummer notices his hearing is failing him and begins to panic. At the doctor’s office he learns he has lost eighty percent of his hearing.

Soon Ruben retreats to a camp for the deaf, run by the no-nonsense Joe (Paul Raci, in real-life a child of deaf parents), who lost his hearing in the war. The camp’s aim is for those afflicted with deafness to learn how to deal with it without any aides. After being in the camp for an unspecified period, the unhappy Ruben wishes to resume his normal musical life and get back with Lou, so he opts for cochlear implants. The controversy in the camp is a question if the deaf should communicate via the American Sign Language (ASL), proposed by Joe, or through the implants. The camp director believes deafness doesn’t have to be fixed, but one should learn to live with being deaf (in other words, learn to live with your limitations).

After Ruben uses all his money to have the implants, Joe wants his friend to leave the camp.

It seems in the deaf community there’s a split opinion over getting implants or using sign language, as the film takes up the argument and comes to no sound conclusion. 

Darius’s innovative use of sound as a mesmerizing techie part of the film, takes us into the controversy of learning how to work with your limitation by highlighting what the protagonist is going through with his hearing problem after putting in the new implants.  

Being a realistic but not too grim musical drama, it amplifies the drummer’s difficult path in a noiseless world. This is not an easy world for the jittery drummer to navigate.

The observant film is memorable for showing us how rewarding and lyrical silence can be.

REVIEWED ON 11/24/2020  GRADE: B