Sound of Metal Parent Guide
With its shifts in tone the movie lets you experience Ruben's life from both the inside and outside.
Parent Movie Review
Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed) is a drummer in an aspiring heavy metal band. For the last four years his life has had a comfortable rhythm: Bang your heart out at the evening’s performance. Afterwards, fall into your RV’s double bed with the lead singer Lou (Olivia Cooke). Get up the next morning, do your exercise routine, make breakfast for Lou and yourself. Start up the motor and travel to the next destination on the band’s tour. Then bang your heart out at the evening’s performance…
But that tempo comes to a grinding halt one morning when Ruben awakes to a droning noise inside his head that seems to be muffling the other sounds around him. Upon examination by an audiologist, it appears Ruben has lost most of his hearing - with no probability of it returning.
While that’s the kind of prognosis difficult for anyone to receive, it is especially dangerous for an addict in recovery. Wisely, Lou contacts Ruben’s therapist, who directs the panic-stricken percussionist to a charitable institution designed to help people with hearing impairments and substance abuse issues.
As remarkable as it is to find a community created for his exact needs, Ruben isn’t enthusiastic about enlisting. First, he doesn’t warm up to Joe (Paul Raci), the organization’s leader, even though the man shares his struggles. And Ruben really hates Joe’s rules that include attending the program solo, handing over the keys to his RV and surrendering his cell phone. However, when Lou (who has ample problems of her own) responds to his reluctance with some “tough love,” Ruben begrudgingly accepts Joe’s offer and the strange assignment to “learn how to be deaf.”
Despite the screenplay’s focus on drug addiction and metal music, the only substance use depicted is smoking and scenes with the eardrum-assaulting songs are few (so hopefully there will be no lasting damage to your hearing). Still, the script is full of grunge language (most often a strong sexual expletive), portrayals of angry outbursts that lead to property damage and implied sexual relations between the unmarried main characters. There are about three glimpses of a hand-drawn, naked woman as well.
Yet the movie’s most compelling characteristic is the way it is constructed. Sometimes you observe the action in a detached way, almost like watching a documentary. For instance, when you see the RV parked in an empty store parking lot you understand how insignificant and glamourless this road tour really is. You read the tattoos that cover Ruben’s body and you get a sense of his troubled past. Or you notice the scars on Lou’s arm and realize she has a history of self-harm. Other times you intimately experience what it is like to be in Ruben’s head because the film’s audio is manipulated so you hear the world the way he does.
Whether you feel like you are on the outside or the inside, you know it is going to be a challenge to make anything harmonious out of the characters’ discordant elements. A tale of broken people, it is hard to tell if their highs and lows are triumphs or tragedies. Although their plight doesn’t always solicit empathy, it will leave you with a cacophony of questions likely to ring in your ears long after the credits roll.Directed by Darius Marder. Starring Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, and Paul Raci. Running time: 120 minutes. Theatrical release December 4, 2020. Updated February 26, 2021
Watch the trailer for Sound of Metal
Sound of Metal
Rating & Content Info
Why is Sound of Metal rated R? Sound of Metal is rated R by the MPAA for language throughout and brief nude images.
Violence: In a couple of scenes, a man expresses his anger by yelling and smashing objects. A character in a sobriety/educational program breaks the rules and uses a computer to check on friends. A surgical procedure is depicted. Self-harm and suicide are mentioned or implied.
Sexual Content: A man is regularly seen without a shirt. Scantily clad women are briefly seen. Some sexually suggestive lyrics are heard. An unmarried couple are shown in bed together. A couple kisses. A woman removes her outer shirt (still wearing an undershirt) and gets into bed with a shirtless man. Then they kiss passionately. A drawing of a naked woman is shown, and a character adds extra pubic hair to the sketch. Later the same drawing is seen as a tattoo.
Profanity: A strong sexual expletive is used frequently (at least 55 times). Scatological slang is heard (about 10 times), along with infrequent mild profanity and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Smoking is depicted frequently. Characters discuss addiction and substance abuse – especially heroin and alcohol use.
Page last updated February 26, 2021
Sound of Metal Parents' Guide
What does Joe mean when he tells Ruben he needs to “learn how to be deaf”? Is it just about learning sign language? How might you react if you were faced with a similar challenge?
What parallels are there between acknowledging you are deaf and acknowledging you are an addict? Why does Ruben have such a difficult time accepting his new reality?
Why do you think the rules of Joe’s organization are so harsh? Why does he think Ruben has to attend the program alone? Why is contact with the outside world forbidden? When does Rubin appear to be engaged or not engaged in the program? How does the way he sees his past and his future affect his progress?
What can you learn from Joe as he deals with his clients’ addictive behaviors? Why is a relationship of trust so important? Why does Joe not see deafness as a handicap that needs to be fixed?