CODA (2021)
CODA (2021)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 51 min.

Release Date: August 13th, 2021 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Sian Heder Actors: Emilia Jones, Troy Kotsur, Daniel Durant, Marlee Matlin, Amy Forsyth, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Eugenio Derbez

 


 

A

board the Angela Rose fishing boat, the Rossi family makes a modest living gathering haddock and other species in the waters of Massachusetts, though prices are continually decreasing. Ruby (Emilia Jones) is the youngest of the clan, still in high school and worried about electives, homework, and boys. She’s also concerned about being bullied, as her family – father Frank (Troy Kotsur), mother Jackie (Marlee Matlin), and older brother Leo (Daniel Durant) – are all deaf, which means, as the only speaking one of the bunch, she absorbs the brunt of the embarrassments, while also handling virtually all of the translating going on between friends and associates. Of course, her family occasionally enjoys teasing her about it as well, particularly in the school parking lot with blaring rap music.

When new federal guidelines impose at-sea monitors, to the tune of $800 per day – more than they make per haul – the Rossi business is at a crossroads. Selling the boat and thinking about another career is simply too overwhelming; they don’t know how to do anything else. And to complicate matters, Ruby signs up for choir class to get closer to a boy – Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) – but discovers that she genuinely has a talent for singing.

With a combination of humor, heart, and music, “CODA” is off to a great start, building sympathetic situations and terribly likable characters. With the introduction of eccentric choir master Bernardo Villalobos (Eugenio Derbez), whose pushy yet wise and generous instruction reminds of a softer version of J.K. Simmons’ Fletcher from “Whiplash” (they may be opposite in approach but serve the same purpose), it’s evident that amid the feel-good vibe, there will be some difficult decisions to confront. Eventually, Ruby will have to choose between working with her family and pursuing her musical interests – two disparate paths, both of which require all of her attention and time. “If I was blind, would you want to paint?”

Additionally, she continues to fret over bullying at school; classmates aren’t afraid to ridicule her because of her deaf relatives. But it’s ultimately a matter of perspective; what she views as an exhausting routine of interpreting (free labor for her family) and expectations of continuing a grueling profession, her love interest views as an ideal situation. What could be better than having a happy family life, in which everyone can work together and love and laugh? Support and advocacy, however, are also matters of perspective.

Pleasant, coming-of-age romance crops up, but by the end, it’s the dramatic interactions that remain most exceptional; the plot is thoroughly inspirational, exceptionally sweet, and regularly emotional, even if it sticks to a rather predictable formula. It may not harbor marked surprises, but it’s nonetheless striking. Like “Sing Street” from 2016, “CODA” hits all the right notes (based on the French film “La Famille Belier”; a remake decision that typically wouldn’t bode well, though here the story is simply too good to lose its potency in the American-language translation), balancing the kinds of cinematic themes and components that play so well – humor, innocence, precise scripting, powerful performances, stirring music, and a convincing tenderness – and an absolutely phenomenal finale sure to please crowds and tug at heartstrings.

– Mike Massie

  • 9/10