“CODA”: A surprising delight


photo courtesy of Apple TV+

Directed by newcomer Sian Heder, the coming of age film follows Ruby, the only nondeaf member of her family as she pursues her passion for music.

Hannah Owens Pierre, section editor

Zephyrus Arts and Entertainment Editor Hannah Owens Pierre examines each Oscar Best Picture nominee in a countdown to the awards ceremony on March 27

“CODA,” which gets its name from the acronym “child of deaf adults,” makes Oscar history: not only as the first movie produced by Apple to be nominated for Best Picture but also as the first with a predominantly deaf cast. Directed by newcomer Sian Heder, the coming of age film follows Ruby, the only nondeaf member of her family as she pursues her passion for music. 

For such a trite and predictable story, it is shocking how enjoyable “CODA” is. Yet an incredible cast and genuinely endearing script make “CODA” stand out from the rest of this year’s Best Picture nominees. Reading up on the production history of “CODA” will tell you that there was a struggle on the part of the movie’s creators to hire deaf actors against the wishes of financiers. Luckily, the wiser heads prevailed. It is difficult to imagine what the movie would have been like had deaf actors not been cast, but the decision enhances the authenticity of the film. 

“CODA” gives a raw look into the challenges of life as a child of deaf adults. Ruby has to wake up at sunrise every morning to help her family in their fishing business by working as an interpreter. Without her presence at doctor’s appointments or town meetings, her parents are hopelessly lost in communication with the outside world. She bears a lot more responsibility than most children ever will. 

But “CODA” doesn’t wallow in the hardships of its subject matter. It takes a refreshingly light and funny approach to an otherwise serious topic. Aspects of living with deaf family members nondeaf people would never consider are brought to the forefront. Ruby’s parents don’t gauge how loud their actions are, making for comical scenes that put a twist on the coming-of-age embarrassing parent trope. 

The best aspects of “CODA” explore what it means to be deaf in a hearing world and what it is like to bridge the divide between the two. Heder does a great job of allowing the audience to intimately witness and feel the struggles that come from being unable to communicate with those around you or appreciate your loved ones’ passions. There is a stunning scene in the latter half of the film in which Heder flips perspectives to Ruby’s parents and the sound cuts out as they watch her perform on stage. “CODA” also does a great job at showcasing the intricacies and eloquence of sign language. 

“CODA” is a movie that gets the audience truly wrapped up in the lives of its characters. You genuinely care for the Rossi family and want them to succeed. At times, it feels as though you are a member of the family. 

Though there are admittedly a few jokes that fall flat and useless plotlines surrounding Ruby’s high school experience, all in all, “CODA” does a great job at capturing heart and soul while delivering a truly important story.