CODA (2021) – My rating: 7.5/10

CODA is a coming-of-age comedy drama written and directed by Sian Heder. The film was released in theaters and through the Apple TV+ streaming service. CODA deals with a family of all deaf members, except one.

I couldn’t imagine how this scenario would impact the only hearing and speaking person in the family, so I tuned in (no pun intended). I believe the deaf community was well represented in this sensitive, well-thought-out movie.

In Gloucester, Massachusetts, Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones) is the only hearing member of her family; her parents Frank (Troy Kotsur) and Jackie Jones (Marlee Matlin) as well as their older brother Leo Jones (Daniel Durant) are all culturally Deaf. Ruby assists with the family fishing business and plans to join it full-time after finishing high school.

Because of her family, Ruby is seen as an outcast at school. When she notices her crush, Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), is signing up for choir, Ruby impulsively does the same. The choir is run by Bernardo “Mr. V” Villalobos (Eugenio Derbez), who orders the students to sing Happy Birthday to You. Faced with having to sing in front of the class Ruby panics and runs away. She later returns to Mr. V and explains that she was bullied for talking funny as a child. Mr. V accepts Ruby back into the choir, telling her there is room for all kinds of voices. He is later surprised when he hears Ruby sing and realizes her voice is beautiful.

The struggles of the Jones family get very real and Ruby’s assistance is imperative.  What do you do when your family business is not your dream.  Ruby has a beautiful voice and can make a better life for herself by attending an institution for the arts.  CODA has some very funny moments and very real issues that come into play.  The situation almost reminds me of families with children that need organs or some part of their body that only family can provide.  It is horrible when you are the designated fulfillment center for an unhealthy family member.  It is kind of like you only exist so that the needy family member can survive.  While Ruby’s situation isn’t quite that bad, it still demands a decision whether or not to provide her services to the family and forget the life she could have had or not.  CODA is a touching story of love, devotion, and life.  Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 96% of 250 reviews of the film were positive, with an average rating of 7.9/10. The site’s critics consensus reads, “CODA’s story offers few surprises, but strong representation and a terrific cast—led by Emilia Jones’ brilliant performance—bring this coming-of-age story vividly to life.

USA Today reported deaf viewers’ varied reactions to the film. They praised the casting and performances of deaf actors and found the depiction of deaf characters as self-sufficient and sexually active people to be in welcome contrast to previous depictions on screen. Delbert Whetter, the vice-chair of nonprofit RespectAbility, said, “After seeing so many stories where people with disabilities are depicted as helpless, forlorn souls needing to be rescued, it is so refreshing to see a story with Deaf characters that are small business owners and leaders in their fishing community, with depth and nuance that rival and even exceed that of their hearing counterparts in the story.” Deaf writer Sara Nović also said, “I liked that these characters were sexual beings—deaf and disabled people are often neutered or virginal in movies and books, and that’s extremely boring and inaccurate.”  CODA was nominated for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Supporting Actor (for Kotsur) at the 79th Golden Globe Awards and can be seen on Apple TV+ — Check it Out!

[CODA is Oscar-nominated at the 94th Academy Awards for Best: Picture, Supporting Actor, and Writing: Adapted Screenplay — Totaling 3 Oscar Nominations]


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