I’m in my mid-40s. So chances are that I will be growing old in the decades to come.
It’s an agreed upon fact that getting old is rough. But everyone has a different idea of what the worst part is.
I don’t worry about death all that much. I understand that nonexistence is nothing to be scared of.
I’d be horrified if I were no longer able to jog or walk quickly like I always have. But that seems far off right now.
Above all, I am terrified of losing my hearing. I think about it every single day.
I fear that losing my hearing will mean losing my connection to the human race. A night at the bar or the club will become frustrating and fruitless. Even a day with my family will be a nightmare because they will be annoyed by my inability to understand them. I will give up trying to communicate and live my final years isolated, alienated, and depressed.
This isn’t hypothetical. I am losing my hearing already. Slowly – yes – but surely.
“Sound of Metal” is the first film I’ve ever seen that addresses the monumental problem of hearing loss. It is a quiet, heartfelt little drama about a young man dealing with his disability.
British actor Riz Ahmed will probably earn a Best Actor statue for his emotional performance. Ahmed plays Ruben: the drummer for a heavy metal band. Apparently, that isn’t the ideal job for ear health because he suddenly goes deaf.
The first half hour of “Sound of Metal” is the most powerful. It is gut-wrenching to watch Ruben cope with his frightening new reality. In one scene, he manically tells his girlfriend Lou that he’s going to find a way to continue touring like before. In the next, he’s lashing out at her in confusion and terror.
Ruben is fortunate to find a support community that is willing to take him in. The guy who runs it is kind of a Deaf Supremacist. He wants to teach Ruben how to be deaf but also how to appreciate the world of silence that he’s now a part of.
One weakness of the film is that Ruben learns sign language way too quickly. He suddenly goes from zero to fluent. It felt like narrative cheating to me. If Ruben is a genius with language, let us know. But a normal person would require at least a year. There needed to be a montage or something, maybe with a calendar flipping pages.
The one amazing thing about “Sound of Metal” is the sound editing. We experience Ruben’s hearing and then non-hearing at every turn. At points, it becomes almost a silent film.
At the end of his journey, Ruben finally makes peace with his hearing loss. It didn’t really resonate with me. I’m still scared. The day after seeing the movie, I turned down my headphones at the gym and started wearing earplugs around the house.