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.