Music in a deaf world, part 2

Six years ago I briefly blogged about a French movie called La Familie Belier about a hearing girl in a deaf family who wants to spread her wings and become a singer. It was a beautiful movie, although a little uneven in deciding what it wanted to be – a comedy or a drama. There was also some criticism of the film at the time in that the couple who played the girl’s parents were hearing actors. Still, I really liked that movie (even though I haven’t seen it again since I saw it at the cinema years ago).

Yesterday I watched an American remake of the movie, called CODA (which is not only a music term but also stands for ”child of deaf adults”); it came out two months ago on Apple TV. This time the family was portrayed by deaf actors. The most well known is Marlee Matlin (Oscar winner for Children of a Lesser God) who played the mother. The father was played by Troy Kotsur whom I know as a guest actor on Sue Thomas FB Eye, starring his wife Deanne Bray. The actor playing the deaf brother, Daniel Durant, is new to me, as is the lead actress who plays the main role of the hearing daughter Ruby (Emilia Jones).

In the French movie the family were cheesemakers, here they are fishermen in Massachussets. While the story is roughly the same, this movie struck me as far less uneven. I absolutely loved it. Excellent performances from the lead family and it turns out that Emilia Jones is an English actress. She not only had to learn the American accent but she also immerseld herself in American Sign Language. She was 17 when she filmed this two years ago, absolutely amazing. I was also quite blown away by Troy Kotsur as the father, he has such depth and when he tries to understand his daughter near the end of the movie, the tears started to flow. Also Marlee Matlin and Daniel Durant show such depth, I loved them too. Like in the French movie, the end was achingly touching here as well.

Apparently Marlee Matlin was the first one cast and fought for the husband and son roles to also be filled by deaf actors. I’m glad she did that, these actors are a revelation. Here’s a trailer:

I did have some minor criticisms, like the end montage maybe wrapping things up too neatly for the family and the music teacher never quite convinced me. However, the core performance of this family of four completely made up for that and yes, I will definitely go back to this movie again.

10 thoughts on “Music in a deaf world, part 2

  1. Servetus

    I remember your earlier post. I’ve been meaning to see this (not least because my first cousin is Deaf and her son used to go to CODA camp in the summers). It’s getting great reviews. Interesting and little known fun fact — although hearing Americans and UKers can speak to each other, ASL and BSL are not mutually intelligible. BSL is like a foreign language to ASL speakers and vice versa.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I do know that ASL is very different from BSL. Mr E’s best friend fom back in secondary school is a CODA, so has told us about that too. Dutch sign language seems to be very different from Flemish sign language as well, although the spoken languages are almost as similar as British and American English languages are.

      Have you ever seen this video by Trevor Noah, by the way? During Nelson Mandela’s funeral there was a sign language interpreter interpreting all the speeches and he turned out to be fake! “Did nobody ask him,” Trevor Noah wonders, “how he could speak every single language in the world?”. I find this a hilarious piece of standup comedy…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Servetus

        I didn’t see Noah (and I don’t like him at all, so forgive me for not watching this) but I do remember the incident. It was a huge deal here because President Obama attended the memorial in person and spoke, and he shook hands with Raul Castro and took selfies with other world leaders and Michelle O was photographed frowning at him, and the conservative news would not get off of the topic! So the story of the fake sign language interpreter was a part of all of that.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Marlee Marlin is a fabulous actress so always great to see her! Film sounds interesting
    I don’t subscribe to Apple TV but there seem to be some great series and films streaming from them so I m very tempted to sign up

    Liked by 1 person

  3. aradaghast

    La version française ne m’avait pas subjuguée. Peut-être à cause de la chanteuse que j’apprécie plus ou moins ou bien à cause de l’exposition d’une version édulcorée de la vie, avec trop de bons sentiments, la famille modèle, D’autres films sur le handicap m’ont plus marquée, au point de les revoir, pas celui-là.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually, I was able to find that French film and see it again for the first time since all those years ago. I admit it was less impressive to me the second time around (precisely because it is a bit unbalanced it the storytelling) and I have to say I like this American version better. I did like the French song “Je vole” more, though – it had more meaning after such a journey.


  4. Pingback: Saturday music – The Book of Esther

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