Movie #21 2022: CODA (2021)

I’m not going to beat around the bush here: this movie absolutely destroyed me. I already had a feeling that I was going to like it, but I didn’t think I’d love it. Yet here we are. The truth is, there are so many moments within this movie that I’ll remember for a very, very long time, and to me, that’s the mark of a truly great movie.

If you weren’t already aware, ‘CODA’ stands for Child Of Deaf Adults. To summarise quickly, Ruby Rossi is the only hearing person in her family. Both of her parents and her older brother are completely deaf, meaning that Ruby often has to translate for them amongst hearing people. The Rossi family run their own fishing business too, and when their livelihood appears to become threatened, they rely on Ruby to help to save it. Interestingly though, Ruby has another passion: singing. Though her family will never hear her talent, she tries to convince them that going to music school is her destiny, and that she won’t be able to stay in the family business forever no matter how much they lean on her for support.

So you’re telling me that a teen movie is nominated for Best Picture? I’m so here for it. I mean, that’s effectively what this is, right? It just so happens that some of the main characters are also deaf. And it just so happens to be one of the best, most touching teen movies I’ve ever seen.

Before going into this, I had no idea what the plot was going to be. I knew what CODA stood for, but that was it. Turns out there are three storylines going on at once and each of them is really well done. Though I wasn’t in love with the romance aspect to the plot, a lot of people will be. For me, both the family business and the music school stories were brilliantly crafted and laid out without being overly long. As a story, CODA is purely gripping and a joy to watch. 

In terms of the performances in front of the camera, the only work of Emilia Jones‘ that I’m familiar with is Netflix’s Locke & Key, and while she is decent enough in that, I did not expect to be absolutely blown away by her in this. The fact that she learned to sing (weird that she had to learn since her Dad is Aled Jones but whatever), learned to operate a commercial fishing trawler and learned ASL just for this movie is super impressive and her hard work clearly paid off. Besides Jones, of course I’m a long-term fan of Marlee Matlin, but Troy Kotsur? My heart. He absolutely deserves that Oscar nomination. It would be an absolute miracle if he wins, but I whole-heartedly have my fingers crossed for him.

Okay, so I may have cried. More than once. And I don’t regret it. There’s so much that stands out here, from some wonderfully composed shots to – strangely, admittedly – the soundtrack. Obviously the final sequence in the music school is wonderful, but what got me right in the chest was the scene on the car bonnet between Ruby and her Dad. That right there is some perfect filmmaking. I can’t go too much into it here, but it was genuinely the most memorable thing I’ve seen on film so far this year.

I’ve seen some reviews that claim this is “cheesy” and “formulaic”, but fuck those guys. I have no regrets giving this full marks. If movies are made to evoke emotion, then CODA sure is some movie.

CODA is available to stream on Apple TV+ in the UK.

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