“Ruby Rossi” (Emilia Jones) assists her father “Frank” (Troy Kotsur) and brother “Leo” (Daniel Durant) haul their catch aboard their fishing trawler, in Gloucester Massachusetts USA.
Ruby loves to sing and and does so happily whilst operating the machinery, her voice is lost on her father and brother, as they are both profoundly deaf, as is her mother “Jackie” (Marlee Matlin). Ruby is the child of deaf adults or CODA, the films title.
Joining a school choir due to a mixture of following handsome boy “Miles” (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) and her desire to sing, Ruby encounters music teacher “Bernardo” (Eugenio Derbez), pronounced with extended rolling R’s.
After a false start, it becomes apparent Ruby is actually talented, maybe even good enough for a scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston. All Ruby needs to do is practice, placing her training and studying first, prioritized over all other commitments.
Teemed with possible love interest Miles to perform a duet of “You’re all I need to get by”, Ruby starts to find her place in the world. Unfortunately family events transpire to create drama and a prioritization issue. Dreams or family, when forced to decide, which way do you fall?
Whilst the story follows notable beats and arguably does not throw in too many surprises, what elevates the story is the acting and the obvious chemistry between the leads. Notably the family dynamic is beautifully played, much of which is conducted in sign language, which illustrates the passion such conversations can create, all without sound.
The opportunity for humour is embraced with brother-sister utilizing ever creative use of signing, to convey insults many siblings can only envy. Watch for Miles face when Ruby’s father artfully and graphically, explains what precautions may be necessary when dating his daughter.
Jones fits the part perfectly, both in love with her family but frustrated with her assumed role as translator for the group, as she indicates at one point, “it’s exhausting”. Walsh-Peelo comes across as a natural and easy presence but the key standouts are the mother, father, daughter and son characters who play off each other beautifully.
Like the Recent Sound Of Metal, the film uses sound imaginatively especially in later scenes, which presents the audience with a whole new experience of what is happening on screen. The end scenes may have you checking for something in your eye, if so the film has achieved it’s aim.
A well crafted crowd-pleaser universally lauded at Sundance before being snapped up by Apple TV. The movie is based on the original French film “La Famille Belier”, changing the families vocation from cheese making to fishing.
Incidentally Jones learnt to sing, work on a trawler and sign all within nine months, whilst adopting an American accent to disguise her English upbringing, impressive work.
The screenplay, casting and acting are finely tooled to produce a perfect feel good story, with the film delivering on that promise.
In these troubled COVID times being gently emotionally manipulated by a universally relatable story, which happens to feature key actors who are deaf in real life, is a pretty good way to spend two hours.
Exclusive to Apple TV+ streaming