‘CODA’ review: Movie about a deaf family is a major heart-warmer

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While Netflix burns the candle at both ends trying desperately to win a Best Picture Oscar, AppleTV+ has gone for more meat-and-potatoes fare, including the feel-good TV show “Ted Lasso” and the soulful new dramedy “CODA” that they snagged for $25 million at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

If you’re in the market for a heart-warmer, look no further.

“CODA,” stands for child of deaf adults, and that describes Ruby (Emilia Jones), a Massachusetts high school student who lives with her mom, dad and brother, all of whom are deaf.

Ruby is hearing, though, and is therefore a big help when it comes to the modest family fishing business. She haggles with local, often prejudiced buyers to make sure her father Frank (Troy Kotsur) isn’t taken advantage of; she works the phones and listens for other boats’ horns. All of this before school starts in the morning.


movie review

Running time: 111 minutes. <br>Rated PG-13 (strong sexual content and language, and drug use.) On AppleTV+.

Her dreams, however, expand far away from the Massachusetts coast — Ruby wants to be a musician. So, she joins the school choir, under the tutelage of the eccentric Mr. Bernardo (Eugenio Derbez, funny but over-the-top), and begins drifting away from her family.

Ruby’s mom Jackie, by the way, is played by the always superb Marlee Matlin, who presides over some very funny home-life scenes. At dinner, while Ruby’s brother is showing off his potential Tinder dates, the sister asks, “If music is rude, why is Tinder allowed at the dinner table?”

Her mom signs back: “Because Tinder is something we can do as family.”

Leo (Daniel Durant), Jackie (Marlee Matlin) and Ruby (Emilia Jones) swipe left on Tinder profiles in the movie “CODA.”
©Apple TV/Courtesy Everett Coll

At first Ruby’s parents resent her fast-evolving life. She meets a boy named Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) in the choir, and her folks work extra hard to embarrass her in front of him. In a deeply sad moment from writer-director Sian Heder, they come watch her concert, where Ruby and Miles duet on “You’re All That I Need To Get By.” Gradually, the sound fades away and we experience what being deaf at a recital is like. Her family loves Ruby very much, but can’t fully experience the joy of her talent.

“CODA” is part of that fizzling genre of film, popular in the ’90s, in which you’re almost always on the verge of sobbing while watching it. When Frank sits under the stars trying to understand his daughter’s gift, you’ll need a mop for the tears.

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