Coda (2021)

coda film review

Coda (2021) Directed by Sian Heder

A walking cliché is what this syrupy and trite film is, molded squarely to romanticize the shallow indulgence of the academy awards. CODA babbles a didactic drama so corny and recycled that it could easily pass as the paradigmatic testament to sentimentalist cinema. This production with exiguous creativity pretends to believe that the manipulative fact of having mechanically hearing-impaired characters as its narrative core makes the empathetic yet irritating drama something novel, generous and spontaneous.

I can safely and firmly confirm that CODA is anything but authentic; the exacerbated plurality of a systematic oratory of clichés are a huge part of the reason for the inconsistency of the pseudo-magnanimity it attempts to expound for the deaf-mute community. It is paradoxically curious that the overexposure of cheap mushiness convincingly attempts to do something honorable and inoffensively graceful for the articulation of its substantial themes, when in reality it is nothing more than a robotic exercise deceptively using the ”empathy” factor to dominate the inevitability of organic humanism that is generated in an audience that is easily succumbed to theatrical sensibility.

Written and directed by Sian Heder, this second feature film by the American director has certain tinges of good intentions, however conjectural, I would not want to believe that her marketing ploy is exclusively provided to have facile success in the industry or to fill the theaters with a film configured especially for the whole family. I really want to convince myself that an obscene amount of cinematic platitudes were attempted for mere admirable purposes, yet this is where my hypothesis clashes very strongly with the objective materiality of what is seen on the screen, how can making a coming-of-age film verbatim teach us anything of social importance about hearing impaired people?

CODA is a headache of bland emotions conveyed in a flashy and shiny wrapping, where the duplicity of its idiomatic absurdities of melodramatic cinema wants to authenticate the question I just summarized above. Director Sian Heder’s formulaic script maneuvers emotions at an impromptu, artificial and dimensionally implausible speed. With all due merit, the script of this tautological film should be positioned at the top of the hierarchy of conventional dramas, not at the top of quality of course, but at the peak of the most representative of the worst of the genre. It is an overly photocopied model, a ridiculous reproduction of everything that makes redundant the insipid emotionalism inherent in this type of productions.

Making a drama that follows the reiterative standards of coming-of-age cinema should not automatically mean that it will be a bad film, but removing the typical characterization and casting deaf-mute characters as objects and never varying the context or giving it a genuine narrative perception that enhances the life experience and explains with human introduction and sympathetic attention the feelings, concerns, desires and difficulties of people with hearing disabilities in a society that often ignores their problems, is what makes it an unpardonable film. It was not about making a normative coming-of-age with deaf-mute people, it was about crafting a coming-of-age drama that seeks to approach experience, not vague representation.

The concepts, rather than unfolding with the points of view of its characters, seem to be directed with such a 21st century perspective that the transitions of acts and the ending of these are inexpressive in narrative sincerity, a vacuous complexity that is clumsily materialized with a flat and even awkwardly made-for-TV cinematographic design. Practically, it’s all too easy to discern that the performances, with such lackadaisical material, are equally tiresome and uneven. The sweet and compendious Emilia Jones gives a laudably lilting musical performance, the only one that builds deep harmony in the drama, Troy Kotsur equally solid as Jones, brings strong expression to the film, his ability to feel instinctively in front of the camera makes him an actor with flexible intuition. Nevertheless, as accurate as those two powerful performances are, the insufferable, histrionic and infuriatingly hipster Eugenio Derbez, appears to leave not a single trace of acting brilliance, he is the epitome of shoddy acting, so juvenile, so meddlesome and above all so anti-cinematic that he perplexes me with his intrusive way of acting.

With a film of this nature there is not much to specify, only complaints and complaints, which are perhaps not universal annoyances, but I am sure that if you pay careful attention to the banal finalisms of this production, you will realize that it is impossible to save this flawed film.

Matteo Bedon
About Author

When I'm not watching and studying films, I'm writing about them.
Part-time essayist and full-time film critic.