Director: Sian Heder
I recently watched Living, which I thought was the best film of 2022, a movie I saw way after the fact. Well, now I’ve seen CODA, the film that won Best Picture for 2021 and one that I also missed when it came out. Now that I’m caught up, I can say that I had dismissed this movie as the best of the year, I had just assumed it was good-not-great and I’d get around to seeing it when I could (or when I got Apple+). Well, I’ve seen it now, and I can happily declare that I was totally wrong; this is the best film of 2021 for sure, and I’m so glad to have watched it and to now highly recommend it.
CODA stands for Child of Deaf Adults, and Ruby has grown up in this role and as her family’s translator, not really expanding her horizons beyond their need for her communication to the hearing world and their small fishing business in the waters of Massachusetts. But now she’s a senior in high school, has joined the choir, likes a boy, is thinking about college, and knows that to chase any of her dreams she’ll have to leave behind a family that depends on her every day for something the rest of us take for granted. The decision to expand out or to stay safe is never an easy one, but Ruby’s situation makes her choices even harder.
So, as I said, I missed this in 2021, it was an Apple+ movie and limited in theatres, and when it won Best Picture I thought sure, I’ll get around to seeing it, but I don’t see what all the fuss is about. And when I started the movie, for the first 30 minutes maybe, I thought I had been right; the coming-of-age cliches, the high school melodrama, the cheesier aspects, everything seemed fairly typical and normal, with only the deaf storyline setting things apart. But if you stick with this film, it rewards you in a way you didn’t see coming, with emotion that builds and builds until, by the end, you’re buried under it. The whole second act and the bittersweet ending are movie moments that you’ll never forget, just massive weight that will make the most stoic choke up and the more sensitive dissolve into a puddle of tears. The acting, the music, the heart; this is a movie that grows and grows and grows until you’re trapped in it and moved by it, a story that you’ll be overjoyed that you finally experienced.
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★