Reviewing Oscars 2022 Best Picture Nominees: ‘CODA’

Photo courtesy of Apple TV

By Clay Thompson | Reporter

I initially expected “CODA” to be a typical or even cliched drama about a girl from a small town with talent and ambition to move to bigger and better things, but after watching the film I can safely say that it is so much more than what I was expecting.

The director and writer of the film, Sian Heder, made “CODA” into a superb film by leaning into the cliche drama plot but having it revolve around a girl named Ruby, who is the only hearing member of her family. Through this unique perspective of a hearing girl whose family is deaf, her love of music and gift of singing, creates a tense conflict, as she cannot get her parents to understand why she loves something they cannot experience together.

What I first loved about the film was this conflict, because it was so unlike what other films have done before. It gave great insight into a sliver of deaf culture for all audiences, and how Ruby feels too relied on by her family to be their interpreter, when she has dreams and aspirations of her own. The struggle between being there for family, versus pursuing your dream, which can often be overused, is spun on its head by the added factor of her family’s deafness. Ruby feels a certain responsibility to them that other people might not normally be able to relate to, and that just adds to the conflict and realness of the film.

Second, the acting by Troy Kotsur and Daniel Durant as Ruby’s father and older brother, respectively, were the true powerhouses of the film in my opinion. Both men stole almost every scene they were in by either their humor, their personalities or the emotion they conveyed. Being a bit well-versed in deaf culture and knowing some American Sign Language myself, I understand how important body language and facial expressions are when communicating in ASL and between deaf people. Kotsur especially made every scene powerful, and his facial and body expressions were so passionate along with his signing, that even without subtitles, audiences could tell what he was saying and feeling in the moment.

Finally, I have to give props to the emotion the film conveyed as a whole. I am usually not a very emotionally swayed film viewer, but there were several parts in the film that had me sobbing uncontrollably. Without giving too much away, the film’s writing and acting work so well to tie the film together at the end in an emotional and overwhelming final act. Again, I have to say that the unique perspective of a “CODA” and her interactions with her family really set this film apart from other dramas from as far back as I can remember.

Sian Heder did a wonderful job writing and directing this film where compelling characters, played by very talented actors, create a truly unique film shedding light on a people and community that might often be overlooked or undervalued. And by doing so, she has created an emotional rollercoaster of a drama that will stick in the mind for quite a long time.