CODA - Movie Review

A Sleeper Small film from AppleTV+
CODA - stream it on Apple TV
CODA - stream it on Apple TV(Apple TV)
Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 10:48 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 16, 2021 at 10:55 AM EST
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CODA (all caps) is an acronym for Child of Deaf Adults. Of course, coda, has another meaning in music, dance, and performance.  So, if you find the title of this terrific little film, written and directed by Sian Heder a bit on the nose, and think the movie is going to be as blunt as its title, you will be pleasantly surprised.  I loved this film.

Emilia Jones, in a terrific performance, plays Ruby Rossi, a high school senior in Massachusetts that is the only hearing person in her family, that makes a living from fishing. Saddled with so much responsibility and feeling like an outsider, constantly at home and at school, Ruby’s needs and dreams have been pushed down. On a whim, or perhaps intentionally, she joins the school choir, and after a disastrous beginning when she runs out of the class, she eventually realizes she loves singing and is very good at it.  Her choir teacher, Mr. Villalobos (Eugenio Derbez) sees something in her and offers to work with her and coach her for a Berkeley School of Music audition—his alma mater. Reluctant and possessing not much confidence, Ruby pushes forward with the rigorous training, desperately balancing it with her immense responsibilities at home.

She doesn’t get much support from her family at first, who think it is a whim, and of course cannot hear how good she is. Meanwhile she finds herself attracted to her duet partner, fellow high school senior, Miles, another great performance by Ferdia Welsh-Peelo, who is also prepping for the Berkley School of Music audition. Additionally, the family fishing business is faced with a major crisis as huge commercial fishing companies invade their territory, and it is becoming increasingly more difficult for the “little” guy to survive. Her charismatic, old-school father played exuberantly by Troy Koster and her rebellious, feisty older brother Leo, (Daniel Durant) do the actual fishing while her mother Jacki (Oscar winner, Marlee Matlin) does the bookkeeper and general office management. However, Ruby’s ability to hear is crucial to the business operations, as she serves as their full-time interpreter.  Looming above all of this, of course is the question; what happens if Ruby is accepted to the conservatory?

If you were to graph out the characters, plot points, and relationships in CODA, it would appear so familiar; it is anything but. It is the specificity, authenticity and heart in the storytelling that makes this immensely entertaining film unique.  Even the mentor/student relationship of Ruby and Mr. V, which could have easily been cliché, is interesting. CODA has so many likeable characters and Heder has a lot to say about people with disabilities, families, work ethic and teenage angst, but it is never preachy and she never sacrifices story.

In the plethora of end of year movie choices, some of them with huge budgets, and huge stars, you will most likely not find a better movie viewing experience, from this “small” film. Stream CODA on AppleTV+.

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