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CODA (2021) Review: A Solid Coming-of-Age Story That is Warm, Authentic and Fun

August 14, 2021

Quick Thoughts – Grade – A – The English-language remake of the 2014 French  ilm La Famille Bélier, is loaded with excellent performances, likable characters, and a lot of heart. It will put a smile on your face, and hopefully it will be remembered when awards season rolls around. 

While it would’ve been nice to see CODA getting a wide theatrical release, knowing that Apple paid $25 million for the distribution rights after it premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival,  is good enough. The Siân Heder (GLOW, Orange is the New Black) directed/written film totally deserves its 95% Tomatometer Score, and hopefully it isn’t buried due to the Apple+ release (like On the Rocks). After watching the various Sundance interviews and reading up about the film, it’s clear that a lot of love went into the creation of it, and that the cast loved being on screen together as the chemistry is solid.

CODA (AKA child of deaf adults) focuses on the exploits of Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones = excellent), a senior in high school who is the only hearing member of her family composed of her parents Frank (Troy Katsur) Jackie (Marlee Matlin) and her brother Leo (Daniel Durant). She spends her mornings fishing with her dad and brother, aboard their commercial fishing boat, then she heads to her high school where she’s occasionally too busy to change and is made fun of for smelling like fish. Problems arise when she decides to join the school choir, and her talents are noticed by teacher Eugenio Derbez (Bernardo Villalobos – he’s so good), who invites her to take private lessons in the evenings and weekends, in hopes of her being accepted into nearby Berklee University. The problem is she’s the full-time translator for her family, as she’s needed at the boat to make sure someone is at the radio, and doctor appointments where she’s forced to hear about her parents sex lives, and it’s consequences (it’s a fun scene). 

It’s a wild amount of stress for the teenager, and to make things worse, she also has to sing a duet with her crush Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo – SING STREET! Watch it now), and be there for her family as they attempt to start their own business selling fish. Despite all the stressful situations, CODA is brimming with life and authenticity as we’re taken into a world the majority of the populace has never been. Watching the everyday interactions of the Rossi family as they struggle to pay bills, deal with local bullies, and struggle to cope with only one member being able to hear, is a lot of fun, because, sadly, it’s never really been shown as authentically before. Also, Heder grew up in Massachusetts, and she’s able to create a believable atmosphere that feels lived-in and genuine. The producers trusted Heder to create something different from the original film, and she succeeded by casting Matlin, Katsur and Durant, who are all excellent, and hopefully like Matlin, will have a chance to win an Academy Award. 

What’s really cool is that Jones spent nine months learning American Sign Language, and she also started taking vocal training to prepare for her singing heavy role. It’s wild that she never really took singing lessons before, which just proves how talented she is (her singing is legit). Also, bringing in Academy Award winning actress Matlin proved to be a wise decision, as she fought for the rest of the cast to be deaf actors, which was wise because the film benefits by having Katsur and Durant, who are excellent and add a level of authenticity to their roles. 

Final thoughts: Watch CODA today. It’s authentic, loaded with heart, and worth a watch

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