Film Review – CODA (2021)

films, reviews

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I promise that after this week, I won’t ever mention that thing that happened at the Oscars again. Mostly because my opinion of what happened doesn’t matter. Also because we’ve wasted too much time discussing it. What I will say, is that it did take a lot of attention away from the important things of the night. Important things like this film. Had the ceremony gone off without the drama, CODA would have been the thing that everyone was talking about. It’s a very un-Oscars film but it walked away with Best Picture. It should have been the talking point. After all, it could have opened up more people to actually see it. I know it did anyway but it could have been bigger. Like when Parasite won in 2020 and a shit ton of people who would never have watched a Korean film actually bothered to see it.

The title of the current Best Picture winner stands for Child Of Deaf Adult and is the acronym given to any hearing child raised by one or more deaf parents. The film is also an English-language remake of the 2014 French film La Famille Bélier. It is a coming-of-age story about the only hearing child in a deaf family. Ruby Rossi finds herself stuck between helping her family’s struggling fishing business and pursuing her dream to be a singer. Not only is she needed to accompany her father and older brother on their fishing trips, but Ruby also helps them connect with the rest of the fishing community. When her choir teacher offers her the chance to coach her for an auction to Berklee College of Music, Ruby finds it tough to choose between her own path and her family’s.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know a great deal about CODA before I watched it. I knew the basics, obviously, but nothing about the story. So, I was kind of surprised by the rom-com like narrative. It’s not that it isn’t sweet or well-written. It’s also not to say that it isn’t a good idea. All I mean is that it just seemed so familiar. It’s also not to say that it isn’t a worthy winner of the Best Picture Oscar. After all, it’s a feel-good movie and we need to celebrate films like that more often. Maybe I’m just jaded nowadays but I expect all potential Best Picture films to be either forlorn or super serious. This seemed too enjoyable. What I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t do what I expected it to do.

What it does, is a present an idea of what it is to be caught between the hearing and the deaf world. The representation of deaf actors is something to be celebrated but so is the was the characters ar presented on screen. The deaf characters are independent, funny and live their lives as you would expect. There is no attempt to diminish them because of their impairment. They are fully-fledged people beyond their deafness and they are all people you would be happy to know. As to how accurate the film is to the lived experience of deaf people in 2022, I can’t say for sure. There are probably some elements that have been created for drama but that’s Hollywood I guess.

Hollywood being the main thing that lets this film down. The scenes in this film that really work are the ones that depict the family themselves. Watching their interactions in their home and the way the characters bounce off each other. The family dynamic is strong and works really well. These scenes are funny and joyous. There’s tension, conflict and emotion to work with. It’s such a shame that we take so much time to focus on Ruby’s musical dreams. That’s what disappoints. Not only is this just a cliche these days but it doesn’t offer the same range of emotions. Okay, I did spend much of the final quarter in tears but it’s pure manipulation. By the books storytelling that knows what it’s doing rather than earning it.

I know it might not sound like it but I really enjoyed CODA. It’s a really lovely film and is definitely a feel-good film. I was just kind of disappointed with some of the choices. Aside from the narrative details, it also sidelines several great characters. This could have been such a masterpiece but it feels as though some ideas were included for ease rather than because it was the right choice. Is CODA a bad film? No. Is it a formulaic film? Certainly. It won’t be the best film to ever win Best Picture but it’s one of those few winners that I’d probably rewatch a few times.

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