Available on Apple TV+.
Written and directed by Sian Heder is an adaptation of the French film La Femille Belier. CODA is about Ruby (Emilia Jones) a hearing daughter of a deaf fishing family. Her family rely on her to communicate with the hearing and fishing communities to sell fish and run the business. Ruby’s real love is singing and when she joins the school choir her teacher (Eugenio Derbez) spots her talent and encourages to try for a music scholarship. Singing brings her close to her crush Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) as well as puts a strain on a family trying desperately to save their business.
CODA, for me, is an odd mix of films. There is a classic coming of age teen drama as Ruby tries to throw off her shyness and insecurities, while trying to balance her families demands. There is also the potential of an interesting drama about a deaf family fighting for survival in a hard industry and working with the hearing community to do it. But the problem is, I didn’t feel the two meshed together particularly well. And rather than the two interesting stories making a fascinating film, actually they come together In something a little formulaic and derivative.
That is a pity, because CODA is in no way a terrible film. There is a charm to it with fun and tender moments throughout. I’m just not sure the premise of the families deafness is explored well enough to give the film a fresh story to tell. The bits where Heder allows the film to explore that is when it is at its best.
Performances are enjoyable enough, Jones, as her character does, does most of the work and does it well. The family played by Tony Kotusur (Frank), Marlee Matlin (Jackie) and Daniel Durant (Leo) make a believable family unit and it is the family story that is most interesting. Outside of that the film and its characters are pretty flimsy.
Ultimately CODA is an enjoyable coming of age film, but doesn’t make the most of an interesting premise. Instead it feels more like two potentially really interesting films mixed together into one enjoyable but rather average one. Which is a bit of a pity.