By Jack McLaughlin
“CODA” is a terrific film that’s currently receiving lots of attention after its multiple wins at this year’s Oscars ceremony, including best picture.
The movie centers around Ruby (Emilia Jones), a teenager whose family is deaf except for her. She acts as the interpreter for the family, which is an important part of their family’s fishing business.
When Ruby gets the opportunity to pursue music, it becomes a conflict between her and her family, who begin to heavily rely on her to interpret after they start a new business for buying and selling fish.
ASL is used for a lot of the scenes where characters are talking, which makes sense within the story. The emotion behind each character as they’re signing to each other makes it much more powerful when there isn’t audible dialogue and you have to rely on the subtitles and body language.
The actor where I want to focus the most attention is Troy Kotsur, who plays Ruby’s dad.
Kotsur, a deaf actor, can convey so much emotion using only his facial expressions and sign language. After seeing the movie, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that this performance won him the Oscar for best actor.
There’s a sequence toward the end where he is talking to Ruby after her school performance.
In a heartwarming moment, he realizes his daughter is a talented singer by feeling the vibrations in her cheek. This scene is an incredible call back to the beginning of the story when he felt the vibrations of rap music.
When Ruby isn’t around her family, she practices for her audition for Berklee College of Music with her choir teacher played by Eugenio Derbez.
Derbez’s character is determined, someone who just wants Ruby to succeed like he has, but makes her work for it.
The audition sequence in Ruby’s choir class does an excellent job introducing the viewer to his quirkiness. Derbez’s character provides a valuable source of comedic relief while maintaining a stern presence when he’s teaching.
The scenes that take place in his house while he gives lessons to Ruby let their unique relationship blossom and are overall amazing additions.
A story tackling a serious topic like deafness traditionally will steer away from light-hearted moments, but “CODA” surprises by being one of the funniest movies that came out this past year.
From the first scene of the movie, Ruby and her brother make fun of each other with vulgar names entirely in sign language, which made it clear that this wasn’t going to be as despairing as you might expect.
The moments of lightheartedness fortunately don’t detract from the story. They make the viewer
consider who is correct during scenes of conflict.
I thought each perspective had valid points, and they were handled in a way where neither side seems like the right or wrong answer. Viewers are left to interpret each side as the movie doesn’t force you to think one side is better – and I love when a movie is able to be complex in that way.
Viewers grow to love Ruby’s family throughout the scenes of fun and fighting.
The ending brings the family’s plot lines together in a beautiful climax and will become one of the most emotional sequences you’ll watch this year.
No plotlines are left unfinished. Everything gets time to breathe, and it helps make the viewer empathetic for each of the characters.
For a relatively short runtime of under two hours, “CODA” takes you on a beautiful journey that will make you wish it never ends. You’ll want to stay in this story longer because of how attached you become with the world and characters set up.
Rating A: An astonishing and important piece of filmmaking.