August 13, 202190/1005 min
Emilia Jones appears in CODA by Siân Heder, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.
Emilia Jones, Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur. Daniel Durant
Written by
Sian Hedler
Directed by
Sian Hedler
Run Time 1h 51min
Release Date August 13th, 2021
Overall Score
Rating Summary

Coda is the kind of feel good coming-of-age dramedy that the world needs. I am not just talking about right now, but in general, because movies like this are a cinematic comfort food, and Coda finds a way to remind you what you love about movies like this in the first place.  This is the story of Ruby (Emilia Jones), who is the only hearing member of a deaf family. She lives in a small New England town, where she helps her father and brother fish all while serving as an interrupter for her family. Ruby loves her family and would do anything for them, but because of their disability she and her family have always been outsiders.

When Ruby goes to school, often right after the morning on the boat, other students make fun of her as she hangs out with her only friend Gertie (Amy Forsyth). She enjoys helping her family but her true love lies in singing, which inspires her to sign up for the school choir. At first she is too shy to sing in front of the class, but eventually she finds her way in joining. It is in those classes that the teacher Bernardo Villalobos ( Eugenio Derbez) sees something in her and decides to team her with Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo ) the other student he sees as the most potential. Ruby though has complications in perusing her love of singing as she is the bridge between the normal world and her family. That responsibility is wearing on her and her family doesn’t really have a plan without her. Her father Frank (Troy Kotsur), mother Jackie (Marlee Matlin) and brother Leo (Daniel Durant) don’t know about her singing and as Leo is pushing for change, her parents are good with how things are. The story that writer/director Sian Hedler (Tallulah) tells has some predictable beats but still finds a way to make you feel like you are listing to a new tune. The story of Ruby trying to achieve a once in a lifetime opportunity at the same time balancing family drama and a new romance may not sound original, but Coda makes it feel so vibrant and fresh. The cast is perfect and Kotsur is highly entertaining as Frank,  who is mischievous and delightful, often at the expense of his family.

It is Jones though, who is brilliantly cast as Ruby, who somehow stays upright even as she is balancing two different worlds. She has a fiery love for her family, but she is at war as she has a growing sense of resentment about how she is taken for granted. While you can watch this on Apple TV +, Coda ends up being a real crowd-pleaser, regardless if that is a full house or an audience of one. This movie will make you feel good, but the last twenty minutes might bring out some ugly crying moments, none you should be scared to show. Hedler delivers a warm and beautiful film that is a step forward for deaf representation on the screen all while taking a formulaic story and making it something special.

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