By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
The acronym CODA stands for Child Of Deaf Adults. And the main character of this winning movie is exactiy that. In fact, the protagonist Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones) is the only one in her family with the ability to hear. Ruby is a high school senior who has spent most of her life assisting her parents and older brother when it comes to communication. She has also worked very hard to help keep their fishing business alive. As Ruby faces graduation and an uncertain future, a passionate music teacher (Eugenio Derbez) points her in the right direction.
Unbeknowst to her deaf family, Ruby is actually passionate about singing and music. To make things more interesting her senior year, she decides to join the school choir. Normally, Ruby spends her days working feverishly for her family’s fishing business in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Her deaf father Frank (Troy Kotsur) comes from a long line of family fishermen. His deaf wife Jackie (Marlee Matlin) and also deaf son Leo (Daniel Durant) also work hard to keep the business afloat. Things get more complicated when Ruby’s new passion begins to conflict with her duties to her family.
Based on the French film La Famille Bélier, writer/director Sian Heder has made a wonderful movie in Coda that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Though the movie does tread some familiar territory, when it comes to the high school elements of the story, it also gives some genuine insight into the life of a family where deafness is a prominent factor. The film addresses several issues faced by people impaired by this disability, but also sheds some light onto the struggles faced by family members who don’t have the same condition. Heder and his extraordinary cast do excellent work in developing and fleshing out the main characters.
As Ruby, Emilia Jones impresses with her dramatic skills, comic timing, a proficiency of American Sign Language, and a genuine talent for singing. Eugenio Derbez stars as Ruby’s choir teacher Bernardo Villalobos and brings much energy, fervor and comic skill to the character. The “Mr. V” character serves as a much-needed catalyst for Ruby to consider a life outside of her family. As Ruby’s parents and brother, hearing-impaired actors Troy Kotsur, Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin, and young actor Daniel Durant all perform wonderfully in their respective roles. Finally, the charming and winsome Ferdia Walsh-Peelo gives a very lovable turn as Miles, Ruby’s choir partner and romantic interest.
CODA is now available for viewing via Apple TV+ and is also currently playing in some theaters. It is an absolutely delightful film that I must highly recommend.