CODA (Sian Heder, 2021, USA/France/Canada)

CODA was a film built for Sundance, and it's no surprise to me that the film was the biggest success of that festival (and also sold to Apple in a record acquisition deal). It is a great film in the Indiewood genre. The film was directed and written by Sian Heder, who previously directed 2015's Tallulah. Here she is adapting the french film La Famille Belier, and moving the setting toward her native Massachusetts. The texture and locale of the Gloucester, Massachusetts setting in CODA is one of the film's more admirable aspects - everything down to the clothing feels authentic.

The film tells the story of Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones), the only hearing member of a deaf family that is made up of her father, brother (both fishermen), and her mother. Emilia Jones does a great job with the role, and she is destined for more visibility in the future. The film also gets points for casting deaf actors in the roles of her family. The weakest role goes to Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Ruby's love interest Miles, with whom she has to share a duet in the school choir. Walsh-Peelo just feels like an uninteresting teenage guy, which I suppose is what the role was going for.

Eugenio Derbez plays the film's flamboyant music teacher, and sometimes this whole aspect of the narrative feels like it is coming from a different movie. There is another subplot involving the threatening of the family's fishing business. These are all tidily wrapped up in true Sundance fashion. That being said, the film is a good example of a crowd-pleaser and avoids being too sweet or saccharine. When it works, it works, even if the pieces do not always come together coherently. It is hard to be cynical about this film also due to the community it showcases. 



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