I have recently watched ‘CODA’ (which stands for ‘child/children of deaf adult), the latest movie only on Apple TV+, around a CODA who is struggling with the dilemma of helping her deaf family’s struggling fishing business whilst pursuiing her love of singing.
But with the moral obligations of helping her family, plus the pressure that comes with being a CODA, this movie follows the story of this journey and how complex it is for those in the real world too.
After watching it, I share my own thoughts and you can do so by watching the video below…:
…listen to the podcast here or on your podcasting platform of choice…:
…or read the transcript.
Now recently, I managed to get the time to watch a film called CODA. And CODA, if you are not familiar with it, it stands for child of deaf adult. And it’s a movie that’s available on Apple TV only available there.
It revolves around a deaf family where there is a CODA, of course. And she is keen to not just live her own life, but she could show in her own struggles of being a CODA.
So, long story short, 17 year old Ruby is the only hearing member of a family who runs a fishing business. And she has to wake up crazy early in the morning to help with the fishing business, then go to school.
Along the way she develops a passion for singing, and she’s having a love life, but that is complicated because she is a CODA and that kind of comes with its own unofficial responsibility, because you feel obliged to help your deaf parents and your brother, and your sister and whoever it is to live their life and to be the translator and the interpreter and connect the dot and connect the missing pieces between the deaf family and the hearing world, and that’s hard for a CODA.
That’s what the film is all about and I’m going to do a brief review about what I think about it, what are the problems and what you can gain from it.
In the buildup to the creation of the film, there were a few rumours about it coming out. And one of them was that the crew members or the people who financed the film, apparently they didn’t want any deaf actors at all. Because that’s what there is in the film, there are people who are deaf in real life and there are deaf actors, so quite authentic.
And you’d think that would make sense, but apparently the financier people didn’t want it to happen.
And one of the actors, Marlee Matlin, who is well-known in deaf community and a bit of a celebrity in her own way, she was adamant that it must be led by deaf actors. Otherwise, it’s not going to happen. It’s not going to be created. She’s not going to follow along with it. And it kind of went that way, eventually.
But it’s interesting that there was a pushback on the idea of having deaf actors, but the same time, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised because that tends to happen. Just get, someone in and teach him sign language for a few months. That would be fine. Nobody will notice. And then we just make money out of it. That’s kind of how it works, sometimes.
I personally agree that it should be authentic as possible. So it makes sense having deaf actors involved, and there are some concerned, apparently that the CODA, in this case, Ruby, the actor is not really a CODA in real life. And some people can tell that, apparently. I couldn’t tell because not only I’m not a CODA, but sign language is not my first language.
So I would not know whether that person is signing in the way a CODA would. Especially ASL, which is something that I have no clue about. I don’t know any ASL right now, at the time of recording anyway, but apparently it’s not authentic enough, but I don’t know.
I think it’s okay personally, because you get a hearing person to learn the sign language kind of like in real life, not the same. I get it. You grew up as a CODA. It’s different than learning sign language for a few months, but that was one thing that people were saying, but I don’t know. It seemed all right for me.
In terms of the actual film itself, I should point out, first of all, that this is all my opinion. Everyone will have their own opinion about whether it’s good or bad, whether it’s authentic or not, whether they think it should be released or not, whether they think it should be done in a different way, like any film, like any movie or film out there, you’re going to have differences of opinion. And that’s why it’s so important that I’m just going to share my opinion. It doesn’t mean that that is what everyone is thinking. It’s just mine only.
The general reviews seem to be very positive albeit its from different target market. But the main websites, like Rotten Tomatoes, they rated it 96% and on IMDB rated it at 8.1 out of 10. So very positive reviews. And I think I can see why, because there are a lot of kind of like warm, feel good factors and emotion, and trying to be so sympathetic to the CODA.
And I think I can see why a lot of people will say that.
Now I’m not saying it’s a terrible movie. I’m just saying that I enjoyed it more than I thought, but your view will depend on how are you looking at it as? You know, what angle you look at it as? But anyway, my opinion, I thought was a good fun movie. There’s a drama but there’s a lot of comedy around it.
But what I didn’t realise though, I thought it was an original film, but it was actually a remake of a French version called, ‘La Famille Belier’.
I haven’t seen the film. So I don’t know what it’s like. I can’t do a direct comparison. I’ve seen a trailer and it does look very similar in terms of the setup of it. The only difference is that in the French version, obviously it’s different kinds of people there, it’s run in a French farm of sorts. I think it’s a cheese farm. I’m not really sure. And obviously it’s also in French sign language.
What did you not realise that every country has its own sign language? Oh, well, well, no, universal sign language doesn’t exist. So that’s just how the world works.
But you will see the thing that a CODA goes through where she’s trying to be the bridge between the deaf family and the hearing world, and trying to make sure that the deaf family is involved, and has all the information and it’s kind of forced upon unfairly to be the official interpreter.
Even when you are in an awkward situation, like in a hospital where you have to relay the information from a doctor about the parents’, shall we say particular bedroom related health issues. And the CODA has to translate that. Imagine you doing that yourself for someone in your family – awkward.
But anyway, that’s kind of how it works in a lot of time in the real world, so, it kind of not get into that. And you look at Ruby into her own world, but then that interest in music and then develop a love life, you know, with a hearing person, and I think that gets complicated because she wants to get more into her music, but can she abandon her family, when their fishing business is under threat? It becomes very complex emotionally for her and the family. What do you do? Well, that’s the general story behind it.
As you can expect there are a lot of ASL. It’s always in frame so you can see all that in time when they are signing them, which is good because sometime I see in other places, they cut off when the person is signing in which is really not a good idea. And it’s very audible. And the majority of the time it’s audible until there was a scene when there was like a high school performance and she was singing.
And then you are suddenly into the mind of the parents who are watching their daughter, but because they’re deaf, they can’t hear anything.
So the silence then comes out and you don’t hear anything yourself when you’re watching it. I don’t know if that’s really genuine or authentic. I mean, there are different levels of spectrum in deafness world. So, if it’s really genuine where they both had complete silence, because a lot of the time you were kind of get like muffled sounds for a lot of people or some kind of, you know, sound that is different, not just complete silence.
So I don’t know if that’s a genuine theme really. I’m, curious to see what other people would think about that because it’s interpreted that they are completely deaf, where it’s like zero, you can’t like completely silent. There’s nothing coming in, but it’s very well-known that people can enjoy music because they can feel it or they can feel the muffled sound. And that’s what it’s generally like in the word.
So I’m kind of curious how is that really genuine, cause I’m not really sure. Let me know if you know yourself.
But there are certain things that is very authentic and the big one for me is in that same scene, when it shows their parents, because they can’t work out what the singing is, and they can’t hear anything, but they are very observant like any deaf person would and they look at other people’s reaction, their emotion, their body language. And you can tell that everybody is really emotional with the music that’s going on and they’re really loving it.
They’re getting all teary-eyed and they can see that and that’s what deaf people can do. They are very observant of people’s body language, and they can understand that. And that’s a really good thing to see. Genuine. It’s very very cool.
One scene that I quite like – it’s a bit emotional. And there are a lot of emotional scenes as well as comedy scene is when the father wanted to be able to hear his daughter sing. So he asked her to sing and he just felt her voice, her throat. And that way he’s able to kind of follow along with the music. And he got emotional about it.
And, as you know, nice little touch like that, it’s quite nice to see that relationship with the father and daughter, even though they’re very different, but they can still connect in that way in a more adjustable way. And that’s what I like to see in the world. Just adjust.
So I did enjoy the film. There were a variety of scenes that were quite funny and there were the bit of drama and emotion, but the one big thing that bothered me is that yet another film where it had to combine deafness with music. I’ve done the review about “Sounds of Metal” and that kind of covered that. But now it’s another one.
And it’s the usual thing about “how, oh my god, I’m so scared, I will not be able to enjoy music or I’m scared that I’ll lose my hearing. I’ll never be able to enjoy music” or anything along that line and it’s not very original anymore, because that kind of been done many, many times.
And it just, again, we’ve seen that and would want to see a bit more variety of themes and storylines, not just always about music and that’s it, because, yes, deaf people can enjoy music, play musical instruments, and we can do all that. And right now I play the guitar.
So, I can play music, but it’s just the same thing over and over again, and I think it’s been done. So it would have been nice to see a different storyline for such a well curated, well designed, well filmed film. And they put a lot of effort into it. You can see that, but it’s the same storyline. And I would have liked something different.
Obviously I can’t relate to the story. I’m not a CODA. My sign language is not to that level and I’m not profoundly deaf, but I can relate to other things. Things like being left out of a conversation and discrimination and feeling let down and being pushed into the deep end of the hearing world. I can relate to all of that.
But what I can do is I can validate based on my experience or seeing, or hearing from people who are CODAs themselves around the pressure of being a CODA and the burden that comes with it, because you feel a huge sense of responsibility and you are obliged to help your family.
But the thing is you shouldn’t be treated like an official interpreter, you should be treated as a family member, but unfortunately they are like an official interpreter, but that’s not the right way of doing it. You should have a professional doing that for them. It causes a lot of tension in the family when that happens.
So, being involved in that and then being told that you must be with a hearing person all the time, and the parent has to be with the child all the time. That’s a lot of pressure as well. That’s like a carer. So, that does happen in the real world and it does display that in the movie.
So, despite my little gripes with it, the whole music and deafness thing, I did enjoy the film, but I just would have liked something different and give it a shot. You know, you might enjoy it. Check it out on Apple TV and let me know what you think if you’ve seen it.
And I’m curious to know your thoughts, because like I said, this is my opinion only. It’s not based on what everyone thinks of different deaf people have their own different thoughts. Different CODAs will have their own thoughts. They might disagree. They may agree. These are just my opinion, but I’d love to know your opinion.
Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear it.
And of course, when there are other movies or if you see other movies that would relate to this and I should review it. Let me know. I would love to be able to watch it and give my review of it.
In the meantime, I will speak to you again soon, take care.