Although “CODA” was released on August 13, 2021, people are still talking about it over half a year later. Just a few weeks ago, “CODA” won Best Picture at the Oscars, along with Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Troy Kotsur. Most of the films in Oscar season usually come out in the last quarter of the year so it takes a special kind of film released before that time period to get this widely recognized. “CODA” is that special film. It did not always get the talk of winning Best Picture, but it was soon seen that this film is unstoppable. That being said, when the nominees were first announced and it had not yet emerged as a frontrunner, it was still the film that I was rooting for. This was my favorite film out of all of the nominees and I loved it as soon as I saw it. While it was a fairly predictable film, I was still tearing up by the end. It was a sweet story that tugs at your heartstrings, and it shows what it is like to be in the deaf community. It is available on Apple TV if you want to watch it and understand its beauty.
Based on the 2013 French film, “La Famille Bélier,” “CODA” follows high schooler Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones) who is a child of deaf adults (a CODA). She is the only person in her family who can hear, which leads to the constant reliance by her parents, Frank (Troy Kostur) and Jackie (Marilee Maitlin), and her brother Leo (Daniel Durant). Frank and Leo run a fishing boat and Ruby also works on the boat, mostly as the ears for what is happening. She has never seen her life outside of the family business. One day, she notices her crush (Ferdia Walsh-Peelio) signing up for choir so she decides to join him. When the choir teacher (Eugenio Derbez) notices her talent, he pushes her to focus on singing. She grows to love singing and realizes that this is what she wants to do and she wants to go to Berklee College of Music. However, her family wants her to stay with the fishing business as they believe they can not survive without her. Frank and Leo are already dealing with serious money troubles with their boat and issues with the union, and they cannot deal with a change in their system. Ruby must decide if she is going to be with her family or follow her dreams.
This is a very character driven film which means the film has to rely a lot on its actors. If the acting was not good, the film would have been written off as too cheesy or a glorified tv film. Luckily, this film does an excellent job with its casting. All of the deaf characters were played by actual deaf actors, which unfortunately cannot be said for the film’s French counterpart. I have to start by giving love to Troy Kotsur, who won an Oscar for his performance as Ruby’s father, Frank. He was a passionate man who would do anything for his family. We see him work everyday on his boat, fight at board meetings for better working conditions and express his love for his wife as if they only just got married. The scene where Frank first understands the beauty of Ruby’s voice is what broke me and shows Kotsur’s talented acting. I also really liked Emilia Jones acting as Ruby. She is being pulled by two worlds and she does not know where she fits in. She goes on a journey to find her voice, literally, and she learns to stand up for herself. She explains to her teacher that she is always late because her family needs her, and she explains to her parents that she wants something more than a fishing boat. She grows more confident and she is relatable to anyone with a dream. I also enjoyed Marilee Maitlin’s performance as Ruby’s mother Jackie. Maitlin won an Oscar in 1987 for “Children of a Lesser God,” which made her the first deaf actor to win an Oscar. She has not done any prominent films since then due to a lack of options, but I want to see a lot more of her. In this film, she was the perfect caring mother. She was always willing to see her daughter’s point of view, leading to many heart to hearts between the two. She always supported her husband, but also wasn’t afraid to tell him straight if she questioned an idea of his, like changes in the fishing business. Her part was not that extravagant, but she still did a great job as a wonderful mother.
I really enjoyed the simplicity of this film. There were no huge twists or fancy effects. This was a film that was based a lot on conversations which grounded the film. You can feel like you know this family and even if you are not deaf, and you can relate to their situation. The choice between staying home or making a big life change can affect so many people, and that is what makes it easy to connect to this film. Some people did not like the film specifically because of the simplicity and the predictability was seen as a little boring. Personally, I believe that “CODA” is a straightforward film that does not need to try hard to reach people’s emotions. Not every film needs to be complex or dramatic. We see these four people who care so much and would do anything for each other. It was an emotional film because we see the issues deaf people have to face in life, such as running a boat without being able to hear what’s going on. I wanted Ruby to make everyone happy with her choices even though her parents could not understand her. I just wanted everyone in this film to be happy without feeling the need for sacrifice, which shows how well written the characters and story were.
The beauty of this film is that it is timeless. There are some Best Picture winners that are so specific to their time they probably would have only won their year. There is nothing about “CODA” that makes it particularly specific for its time and I appreciate that. Anyone can enjoy this film because at the end of the day, it is a story about the importance of family and following your heart. I am really glad that this film won Best Picture so that more people will have an interest in seeing it. If you want to see a beautiful tale about gaining confidence and family, or you want to see some much needed representation of deaf people, watch “CODA” today.