Culture / Film

Save your tears for ‘CODA’, an arresting film delving into Deaf culture

Much can be said about Sundance Film Festival and it's appetite for films about the youth and their bleeding hearts. All the warm lighting, wind-in-hair and dirty bed sheets of teens experiencing first love, can make for some polarising material. For some people. For the rest of us this is exactly the kind of genre we will die on a hill defending. Especially locked down and longing for those experiences ourselves. Nothing bolsters our love for this flavour of movies more than AppleTV+'s latest acquisition CODA. 

From the outset, CODA will strike a chord of familiarity in some more than others with its very name. CODA is the acronym used to describe the specific and yet individual experience of being a 'Child Of Deaf Adults'. Adapted from the 2014 french film La Famille BélierCODA follows the Rossi family, all three of whom are Deaf, except for the 17-year-old daughter Ruby. We shadow Ruby, who, in her final years of high school is negotiating her desire to attend college for singing and the impact she knows leaving her hometown of Gloucester, Massachusetts will have on her family. After all, Ruby is an important link between her community and her brother and parents. We see this manifest throughout the film as Ruby attends doctor appointments with her parents, translating their symptoms to the doctor for diagnosis.

CODA has the staying power of a red wine stain. Yes, the coming-of-age story is always a welcome addition to any plot. Who doesn't love the blows and lows of being a teen? Especially when we can watch from the safe distance of no-longer being one. But it's impact is largely due to the integrity director Siân Heder stitched into the very seams of the film.

Unlike the french iteration, Heder was resolute that the main three characters, Jackie, Frank and Leo Rossi were to be played by Deaf actors. Marlee Matlin, the only Deaf Oscar winner still to this day, along with Troy Kotsur, Daniel Durant and a large ASL team, brought nuance and authenticity to their performances. Offering a family dynamic that strode past believable and delivered a sense of cosiness and intimacy. Three CODA's were also hired as consultants on the film, adding much-needed texture and perspective to what could have easily been tokenistic and artificial. Of all the differences between La Famille Bélier and CODA it's this departure from the first film that is most compelling. Making it a powerful foray into Deaf culture.


Thrown into the mix is some well-placed comedy, a nod to all those years Heder spent in the writers room on Orange is the New Black. Miles, Ruby's preppy and earnest love-interest. A couple of ballad-y singing sequences and a grey, yet lively New England fishing village. It's no wonder AppleTV+ shelled out $25 million for the movie, the most anyone has ever spent on a film from Sundance.

Luckily for all of us, there's nothing standing in the way of you and the film. CODA is available to watch right now on AppleTV+. If you're looking to whet your palette before diving straight in, check out the trailer below.

Images: @codamovie

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