The premise of this movie seems straightforward – Ruben is a metal drummer, he and his girlfriend drive around the States in their rv, gigging in numerous backstreet venues, scratching together a ramshackle living. But then in a short space of time he looses his hearing and all stability is lost.
However, after watching this film, which is cleverly put together, there are numerous tricks used that you don’t realise until afterwards, and then you notice that the film has much more deeper levels of philosophical notions.
When we have a sudden debilitating or life changing health issue we want to be fixed, to get back to our “normal”. Ruben wants cochlea implants so he can get back to drumming and life on the road with Lou, where he is comfortable in his known world and the demons and temptations of his pre-Lou life will not invade. But that’s impossible, the clarity of hearing with any aid is not the same as natural hearing, it brings with it difficulties of its own.
Once Ruben is told of his problem, you are taken through how much we rely on ambient sound, how simple things like telephone calls, a conversation with a friend, communicating with a stranger are stressful, frustrating. The initial denial that this new situation is not ‘forever’. Ruben is taken to a deaf community facility, where everyone signs, there are no phones, no use of computers, total submersion in silent life. Here the director uses a clever trick, the sign language is not subtitled, we the viewer like Ruben are unable to understand what is being said around him. But as he learns to use sign and communicate and read people around him, so we get subtitled and find we’ve become more involved, more emotionally invested in his journey.
It’s interesting too, to see the deaf community reaction to these implants. Many deaf communities call them a ‘cure’, a refusal to embrace deafness as a lifestyle and not a disability or something of shame, people with implants are often shunned from such communities. But isn’t a hearing aid/implant the same as a prosthetic to the amputee? A tool, an aid, to be used when needed! Hmm, interesting notion.
Ruben is determined to get the implants, to leave the community, despite the calmness, the inclusion and friendship, the place and purpose he discovers, and return to Lou and music. When he gets that chance, is it all that it is expected to be, that what’s best for the two of them, or does Ruben need to find that inner place of stillness.
My common niggle with films of this nature is how you get the notion of time, maybe I didn’t pick up on the changes of the seasons on the trees to get that sense that we are passing through the months. I don’t recall scenes with things like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Independence Day, Graduation Day celebrations going on, being in the U.K. snow on the ground could be anytime, it’s snowed in June before now.
I recommend watching this film, it’s moving, telling, heart tugging, rarely amusing, but so insightful.