Review by Rich Cline | 4/5   MUST must see SEE

dir-scr Sian Heder
prd Fabrice Gianfermi, Philippe Rousselet, Patrick Wachsberger
with Emilia Jones, Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur, Daniel Durant, Eugenio Derbez, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Amy Forsyth, Armen Garo, Jared Voss, John Fiore, Garrett McKechnie, Rebecca Gibel
release US/UK 13.Aug.21
21/US Apple 1h51

matlin derbez walsh-peelo
sundance london

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Beautifully written and directed by Sian Heder, this enormously engaging drama digs deep into its themes, challenging us to look at deafness through a new perspective. Even if the open-hearted story is familiar structurally, there's an edge to the character interaction that sparks sympathy through joy, pain and a steady stream of sharp humour. This allows the strong cast to create people who resonate deeply, and perhaps even inspire us.
At 17, Ruby (Jones) is the only person in her family who can hear. She works alongside her parents Jackie and Frank (Matlin and Kotsur) and brother Leo (Durant) to run the family fishing boat on Cape Cod. As they rely on Ruby to communicate, they can't begin to understand her passion for music, or her serious vocal talent. But her school's choir teacher (Derbez) notices it, and he trains her to sing a duet with Miles (Walsh-Peelo), her long-time crush. The question is whether her parents can ever know what singing means to hear.
The juxtaposition of a musician within her deaf family may feel gimmicky, but the script adeptly addresses issues while maintaining a sharp, even raucous sense of humour. Each central character is a bundle of quirks, personality and attitude. And the film is skilfully shot and edited to make the most of the seaside locations and a variety of musical situations. So while the narrative sticks to movie formula, the interaction makes each scene powerfully involving.

Jones is likeable as a gifted teen worn out by responsibilities. Ruby's tenacity is inspiring, and Jones balances this with razor-sharp wit. The family scenes zing with barbed banter. Matlin and Kotsur are fabulous as Ruby's mischievous parents, loving but unable to see why their demands weigh her down. Durant has several great scenes, and ace scene-stealer Derbez, Walsh-Peelo and Forsyth (as Ruby's sex-mad pal) are solid in under-developed roles.

The crowd-pleasing premise feels like it has to be a true story (it's actually a remake of a fictional French film). And while Heder never lets the plot or themes depart from the feel-good template, she makes up for that with characters who are bracingly familiar, letting the audience experience life in a lively, loving deaf household that's far from perfect. She also stirs in important political comments along the way, reminding us that it's society's responsibility to adapt to our deaf neighbours, not the other way round. As a result, this is one of the most heartfelt, exuberantly humane movies in recent memory.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 29.Jul.21 slf

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall