Sound of Metal (2019), written by Darius Marder and Abraham Marder, racked up numerous awards. It’s quite the read as it consists of a small cast and the exploration of heavy themes such as the loss of love, disability and depression.
- Draft Read: Undated
- Type: Spec
- Page Count: 91
- Reading Speed: Medium
- Setting(s): U.S.A., France
- Plot Structure: Linear, Spanning multiple weeks
- Genre(s): Love, Memoir, Two acts
- Theme(s): Love, Music, Disability, Religion, Addiction, Depression, Meditation
- Protagonist Change: Significant
Out of the 50+ screenplays I have read (see Screenplay Analyses), Sound of Metal has one of the strongest First Acts. Why? The answer is Simple; the characters are presented in vulnerable ways, so I felt strong empathy toward them. That’s literally it. Rueben and Lou aren’t 007s, they aren’t star athletes and they aren’t perfect. They are humans in a difficult position. And guess what? Humans are relatable.
Who was Joe and what was his purpose in this screenplay? I couldn’t tell you. He was presented as a mentor, but his core values were unclear, except for his belief that any behavior that strayed from the norm was a form of addiction. Why did he forbid Joe from contacting Lou at all? Was he deeply religious or not? Why was he vague when talking to Ruben about the latter’s future?
Some of the conflict felt forced. For example, why did Lou run to France before even helping Ruben go back to the deaf community? Likewise, Ruben is presented as somewhat dense, allowing for what I would consider moments of unnecessary exposition. For example, in Act 3 the cochlear impacts are turned on, and the nurse explains why the sounds Ruben are hearing are not the same as normal hearing. I would think most people watching the movie would know that the hearing heard through cochlear implants isn’t the same as natural hearing. Regardless, it would be obvious in the following scenes.
Similarly on Page 41 Ruben shares his love with Lou, among other words saying, “You’re it for me. Okay?” In this latter example I think the dialogue is unnecessary because we already know how much each of them mean to each other. In other words, the writers did a great job showing their love in Act 1, so no telling is necessary. Sometimes less is more.
There are moments of what I would consider lazy screenwriting. For example, the references to OCD and, “AHDH craziness,” (Page 46), to describe character behaviors are dicey at best, and somewhat offensive at worst.
The plot follows Rueben as he loses his hearing, joins a deaf community and ultimately comes to peace with his life. It didn’t feel like a particularly unique premise, but it flowed well.
Early on, there’s a subplot that centers on Rueben’s feeling of impending doom, and Lou questions this (I believe multiple times), but it doesn’t seem to lead to anything.
Ruben and Lou are two lovers who are also musicians. Joe runs a deaf community which Ruben joins.
As noted, Ruben and Lou are two extremely well-developed characters. Others, such as Joe and the staff at the deaf school, feel less so.
Dialogue & Pacing
The dialogue felt natural. Particularly strong are the conversations Ruben has with Joe. As the reader, Ruben’s underlying mood and feelings were obvious purely based on word choice.
I didn’t take any notes on pacing.
This is an emotionally impactful script. Ruben comes across as a likable and innocent person dealing with a difficult problem. What gives him agency is his desire to restore his hearing and reconcile with Lou.
What prevents the screenplay from being a true masterclass is the fact that the themes and overall conclusion remain ambiguous. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but as the reader it’s difficult to take home any strong overall meaning. For example, one odd message would be Joe’s broad definition of addiction to include behaviors that we don’t typically consider addictive; such as being in love and wanting to communicate with loved ones, yet Joe insists on Ruben’s complete isolation (Page 32).
Broadly speaking and as noted, some of the forced conflict and ambiguous messages prevented me from connecting deeply with the script’s themes.
Best Part of The Script
The first 15 pages in which Ruben and Lou talk about their respective lives are a great example of powerful screenwriting that set up the story and its stakes.