CODA: Film Review


Apple TV+

Sometimes, all you want is a movie that will make you laugh, smile and do a big cry, and CODA delivers the goods on all those fronts. 

This coming-of-age drama follows Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones), a child of deaf adults (CODA for short), the only hearing member of her family. Her parents Jackie (Marlee Matlin) and Frank (Troy Kotsur) and older brother Leo (Daniel Durant) have come to rely on her help with their fishing business, but she becomes torn between her family and doing what she loves – singing. After signing up to the school’s choir, her teacher Bernardo (Eugenio Derbez) encourages her to audition for Berklee College of Music, but it all happens at the same time as her family launching their new business venture and Ruby struggles to juggle both responsibilities. 

What a heartwarming, uplifting, feel-good film! I knew CODA would be up my street but I just wasn’t prepared for how much I was going to love it. Sure, its structure is pretty conventional, but who cares?! I became so invested in Ruby and her family and ended up in tears on a few occasions because Jones’ singing was beautiful, some of her songs were very moving and a couple of moments were just so damn lovely that I couldn’t resist a weep. 

I’m not familiar with Jones’ work but I certainly will be after this. She is a captivating and likeable lead, with a stunning singing voice to boot. You really get the sense of how much of a burden being the only hearing member of her family is, how that responsibility has been weighing her down over the years and how tired she is of being her family’s “free interpreter”. Ruby has no confidence in her singing because she’s never done so in the presence of other hearing people and she doesn’t know if she’s actually any good, which is where the lovely Bernardo comes in. Ruby finally has to find her identity without her family and learn what she truly wants from her future. 

One of the things I loved the most about this film was the writing, particularly with Ruby’s parents. They are hilarious, vivacious, frequently horny, and make rude jokes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen deaf characters onscreen given this much breadth and depth. They had so much personality and such a terrific sense of humour. As the film progresses towards the final act, Matlin – the only deaf performer to win an Oscar – and Kotsur also have a lot of emotional work to do as they come to realise how much they’ve come to depend on Ruby and that they can’t make her work for them forever. Durant rounds out the fantastic foursome as the angsty brother who resents Ruby for being seen as the saviour of the family instead of him. 

Elsewhere within the cast, Derbez excels as the nurturing but straight-talking choirmaster, who guides Ruby towards the next phase of her life, while Ferdia Walsh-Peelo gets to show off his lovely singing voice as Ruby’s duet partner and love interest Miles. 

CODA is a delightful crowd-pleaser – it left me with tears in my eyes, a smile on my face and a warm fuzzy feeling inside. I cannot recommend it enough. 

Streaming on Apple TV+ from Friday 13th August

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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