CODA OR HOW TO END A PHRASE WITH HEART
Art does not exist only to entertain, but also to challenge one to think,
to provoke, even to disturb, in a constant search for truth.
Ruby Ross (Emilia Jones), an average teenager who struggles with fitting in at her local high school, falls asleep in class, to the chagrin of her teacher. Ruby's classmates have a good laugh while trying to avoid the girl who smells like a barrel of fish.
You would think that being residents of Gloucester, Massachusetts that these kids would understand Ruby's plight. She awakens early in the morning to help her father (Troy Katsur) and brother (Daniel Durant) bring in the morning catch. However, as with other coastal ports, the town's once flourishing industry--commercial fishing--is floundering; everyone has been challenged.
What keeps her motivated, on the boat at least, is singing along with a blaring radio as she pulls in the nets, sorts the fish. Back at school, when it comes time for the young woman to enroll in an after-class activity, Ruby notices her crush signing up for the school choir. She impulsively does so, too. This act opens a whole new world for the teen, and numerous obstacles.
Used to silence at home as a hearing child of deaf parents, she dares to strive for a goal that she predicts, rightly so, her mother, Jackie (played by the Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin), wouldn't accept. For it reminds Jackie that her daughter can navigate in the hearing world without effort.
Ruby's other conflict comprises her father's reluctance to work with the other fishermen to form an association to sell their catches directly to vendors and consumers. Eliminating the middle man, i.e. the wholesaler, would provide a fairer net profit than what they've been paid. She tries to convince her father that this course would bring a better life for the family as well as the fishing community. He, nevertheless, feels uncomfortable with idea; doesn't believe he'd be welcomed by his peers.
The songs featured in CODA (2021), the double meaning of the title includes the familiar music term and Children of Deaf Adults, work when Ruby sings solo or in a duet. All the players carry the story and Eugenio Derbez as the choir director adds flourish to the occasionally lagging plot progression.
Writer/Director Sian Heder handles the family dynamics with sensitivity without being condescending. The movie emphasizes that they face similar problems as hearing parents. Only when Ruby must make difficult choices about her future does the parents' and brother's hearing impairment take center stage.
CODA, much of it filmed on location in Gloucester, has sentiment without being saccharine or too cynical. Most of all, the story has heart.
Rated PG-13 for expletives and adult discussions.
Now playing on Apple TV+
Earlier reviews not seen on this website (before May 20, 2021) are available on https://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/wendy-shreve/movies or my previous blog site, featuringfilm.com
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