It was worth the Apple Original cost tag to watch what I think will be this year’s as with 2021’s exceptional movie. So what is CODA about? And how is it a remake?
Let’s dive into the movie sensation that swept 15 awards at the Oscars 2022.
The new movie, CODA, is about a 17-year-old girl, Ruby (Emilia Jones), who comes from a family of fishermen. Her challenge: only Ruby can hear in the family. Her parents are played marvellously by Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur through one of the most unique scripts I’ve witnessed.
How is it a remake? It’s a reboot of the French film La Famille Bélier which stormed across France cinemas and stole audiences in 2014. Here, director Sian Heder takes the source material and brings it to fresh audiences with grace and the deft directorial hand needed for such an emotional story.
Throw in an amazing cast, and an epic drama is born.
Ruby was born into a deaf family. Her mom, Jackie (Marlee Matlin), and her brothers are completely deaf. Ruby is fluent in American Sign Language and can sign to both of her brothers. Leo (Daniel Durant), her older brother, has learned sign language but doesn’t yet have the fluency of Ruby or his mom.
Charlie (Troy Kotsur), her younger brother, is still learning to read lips, so he’s not yet able to sign sufficiently. As such, Ruby acts as a sort of translator for the family—interpreting for her mom at work and when she goes to the store, for example.
Ruby’s father, Frank, skips his hearing aid at times and hasn’t learnt how to communicate fluently in American Sign Language (ASL). But when he’s talking to someone who doesn’t know ASL, Ruby helps him by signing what he says. This interpretation is core to what drives the drama and the pathos as we move through a very moving tale of the difficulties within a mixed deaf family.
Ruby’s parents want her to work in the family fishing business, but she wants to be a singer and go to college and do something else with her life. The two sides reach an understanding—not without some conflict along the way—in this movie that has been getting good reviews from critics like Roger Ebert!
Ruby and her mother, Jackie, have a complicated relationship. While Ruby loves her mom, they don’t always get along very well. Ruby felt that Jackie was putting pressure on her to be deaf like the rest of the family, whereas Jackie felt that Ruby was rejecting her and their culture.
Jackie’s frustration towards Ruby is rooted in the fact that she stubbornly doesn’t want to learn sign language and prefers to speak and read lips instead. This feeling surely connects with many families. She feels caught in the middle between her hearing friends who can’t sign and her parents who can’t understand what she’s saying when she speaks.
This conflict only intensifies as time goes on, until it finally leads to an explosive fight at a diner where Ruby yells at Jackie for making this so hard for her.
And poignant scenes like that keep coming. Get your handkerchiefs at the ready. Trust me, you’ll need them for a film that can be hard to watch at times.
When Ruby’s mother checks in with her daughter, we learn that the family’s fishing business is failing and that she wants Ruby to help. The reason Ruby has been coming home late, it turns out, is because she’s been working at a nearby restaurant. She says she wants to go to college and study music so she can be a singer, but her mother is upset with her for not wanting to help the family. She wants to go to college and do something else with her life.
Ruby’s struggle to maintain her life and stay focused on her family takes the drama in directions that have you question her actions: What would I do if I were in this situation?
And you feel right there beside the family as the drama unfolds.
CODA gives a unique portrait of a family of deaf people and the hearing daughter who helps them communicate with the world outside their home
Beyond being a heart-warming story about family and personal growth, CODA is also a film that gives viewers a unique look into what it’s like to live as a deaf person. The movie does this by highlighting Ruby’s work as an interpreter, which allows her to communicate with her parents on behalf of the hearing world.
It’s this narrative driver that will hook you in tight as the film moves through its difficult scenes. You’ll fall in love with this family before the end of the film and want to know more. At least, that’s where I was at close to its end.
Ruby becomes the bridge between two worlds and at times, it seems like she can’t find her footing in either one. This is where the film absolutely deserved every award for both the incredible performances and writing. The film gives us many glimpses into both these worlds: we see Ruby struggle with socialising with other students at school, but we also get to learn more about the deaf community and how they communicate with each other.
It’s an eye-opener and wants you to listen hard and pay attention to the struggles faced by Ruby. And you will invest in every second.
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