CODA Movie Review

CODA Apple TV+

CODA Apple TV+

Looking for a family movie to watch this weekend? Then let me suggest “CODA,” premiering on Apple TV+ and in theaters Friday, August 13th. I was invited to screen this movie at home and must admit I really enjoyed it.

“CODA” is a heartfelt coming-of-age film that, in spite of its predictable storyline, the subject matter can spark a conversation with your kids, especially when inclusion is a hot topic, “CODA” puts the principal actors at the center of this issue.

Movie Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Ruby (Emilia Jones) is the sole hearing member of a deaf family – a CODA, child of deaf adults. Her life revolves around acting as interpreter for her parents (Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur) and working on the family’s struggling fishing boat every day before school with her father and older brother (Daniel Durant). But when Ruby joins her high school’s choir club, she discovers a gift for singing and soon finds herself drawn to her duet partner Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). Encouraged by her enthusiastic, tough-love choirmaster (Eugenio Derbez) to apply to a prestigious music school, Ruby finds herself torn between the obligations she feels to her family and the pursuit of her own dreams.

The story focuses on a family with three deaf members and a single hearing one. Most of us know Marlee Matlin, the Academy Award-winning deaf actress, but the film also stars Troy Kotsur, who plays Matlin’s husband, and Daniel Durant as the son. All three are deaf and communicate in American Sign Language (ASL) so smoothly that the subtitles can barely keep up with them.

“CODA” stands for Children of Deaf Adults, and as the title indicates the film highlights families with deaf members. This can be a revelation for many who may not have given a deaf person’s struggle a second thought. And as the movie shows us, the struggle could be more difficult for a CODA. Ruby Rossi (played by British actress Emily Jones) is the daughter and the only hearing member of her family. She grew up with ASL as her first language, and kept to herself most of the time. However, being the only hearing person in her family has made her feel isolated even from her own family, too.

The Rossis live in a fishing community in Massachusetts and have made a living as fishermen. Their daughter Ruby is their connection to the hearing world and they rely on her to be their interpreter and listener. Things get complicated when Ruby, a senior in high school, sees her high school crush join the school choir and she joins on a whim to follow him. This decision forces Ruby to reveal her gift of singing, something her parents aren’t able to hear or understand. Given her shy past, she’s reluctant to sing in front of the class and her teacher, played by Eugenio Derbez who also provides some comedy relief. Realizing that singing might offer her an opportunity to finally pursue her dreams, the story focuses on Ruby’s conflict: to continue to help her family or forge a life of her own.

Among the many key moments in the film, one forcibly stands out that demonstrates to viewers what it’s like for the deaf to be at a musical performance. As the family sits in a concert hall watching their daughter, the sound gently fades away until there’s a deafening silence.  The lack of audio lingers long enough for us to arrive at the jarring realization of their reality. The family sits quietly looking around for visual cues so they know when to clap, laugh, or watch straight on. This moment brilliantly brings the film’s premise full circle.

Family dramas tend to follow a familiar path, and “CODA” is no exception. Will it pull at your heartstrings? Yes. Is it a tearjerker? Inevitably. Yet, “CODA” cuts away from the beaten path as a landmark film for its excellent portrayal of people with disabilities, in this case deaf people, and their struggles and triumphs–something we don’t see coming out of Hollywood often enough.

“CODA” was purchased for $25 million by Apple at the Sundance Film Festival where the film was well received.

“Written and directed by Siân Heder, “CODA” was presented in the U.S. Dramatic Competition category at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and became the first film to be honored with an unprecedented four awards at the festival: the Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast, the Directing Award, the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize. “CODA” is produced by Vendome Pictures and Pathé.”


Rated PG-13

Runtime 1 hour 52 minutes

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