CODA (child of deaf adults) is a lovely, coming-of-age film about 17-year-old Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones). Both her parents and older brother Leo are deaf, so she spends most days interpreting for them, and working on the family’s fishing boat. Not your typical high school senior, Ruby’s days start at 3 a.m. When her alarm blares, she wakes the others, and spends the early morning hours helping on the boat.
While the plot synopsis sounds slightly depressing, it’s not at all. This heartwarming film is lifted up by Emilia’s terrific performance as a devoted daughter who’s her family’s gateway to the world. Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur as Ruby’s parents, and Daniel Durant as Leo, are also great. The script wisely allows their family to bicker and fight like any other close-knit family, but only in sign language.
Gloucester High School
A socially-awkward student at Gloucester HS, Ruby is ostracized for her “fishy” smell and unfashionable clothes. Her only real friend is the outgoing Gertie (Amy Forsyth). Ruby joins the high school choir as an elective, primarily because her secret crush Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) has signed up for choir. It doesn’t take long for their charismatic choirmaster Mr. V (celebrated Mexican star Eugenio Derbez) to discover that Ruby is a gifted singer. He pairs her with the school’s most popular boy, Miles, as a duet partner for the school concert. After Miles and Ruby spend many hours practicing together, they gradually form a strong bond and romantic relationship.
Her future starts to look brighter than Ruby ever imagined when Mr. V offers to help prepare her to audition at a prestigious Boston music school. The lovely solos by Ruby and her duets with Miles are highlights of the film. Conscientious Ruby is torn between staying with her family to help save their struggling business, or pursuing her own dreams. After her brother Leo convinces his family to join other Gloucester fishing families in forming a cooperative union, the Rossi family’s future also starts to look brighter.
CODA Director Sian Heder
The film is written and directed by Sian Heder, based on an award-winning French film, “La Familie Belier.” His impressive cast is comprised of both Deaf and hearing actors. CODA opened a limited release in area theaters Aug. 13, and is also available on Amazon + streaming platform. Nicholai Baxter is the Music Producer for the film, and the musical interludes are a joyful and integral part of the film.
A drama, CODA is rated PG-13 for some drug use, strong sexual content, and language (which is mostly done in sign language). Written and directed by Sian Heder, the film runs one hour and 51 minutes. A Vendome Pictures and Pathe production, CODA is produced by Philippe Rousselet, Patrick Wachsberger, and Fabrice Gianfermi.