SOUND OF METAL*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Alex
Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed) is the drummer for a heavy metal rock band called Blackgammon, along with the singer/guitarist, his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). They live in an RV and travel around doing gigs. He begins to hear ringing in his ears, and eventually, all sound starts to become muffled, as if his ears are clogged. He goes to a doctor, who administers a test to him where Ruben can barely hear the words he is saying, and often hears the wrong words. He finds out his ears are down to 24 and 28 percent hearing, respectively, and that he should eliminate all exposure to loud noise and then they can run tests to figure out exactly what is going on and how to proceed. He tells him he could possibly get a cochlear implant, which could run 40-80 thousand dollars. He tells him the hearing is lost is not coming back and he needs to work to preserve the hearing he does have.
Ruben plays his next gig anyway, during which he stops being able to hear entirely and flees the stage. Lou chases after him and he tells her what’s happening. Later, he tells her that he just needs to get an implant and his hearing will come back and he wants to keep going on the tour, which Lou refuses to do, saying it’s not safe. She calls Ruben’s sponsor – Ruben is in recovery from drug addiction – to try to get him in touch with Ruben, but Ruben can’t hear anything anyway. The sponsor tells Lou he found somewhere for Ruben to go, and they drive to meet Joe (Paul Raci), a deaf man who sits down for a meeting with Ruben and communicates with him through a computer translator. Joe asks him about his history with drugs and if he wants to use – Joe tells Ruben he’s an alcoholic and lost his hearing in Vietnam when a bomb went off, and he subsequently lost everything due to his alcoholism. Ruben says he’s been clean for four years and he’s going to get the implant.
Joe brings Lou in and asks Ruben to stay with him at his sober community and learn some sign language. Ruben insists he doesn’t need help and doesn’t want to stay, but Lou and Joe think he needs help. Joe says if he stays he he has to commit to the program and will have no contact with the outside world, including Lou. Ruben refuses and leaves. He tells Lou they should keep doing their gigs and he can follow along by watching her. The next day, Lou is awoken to Ruben smashing up the RV and screaming. He expresses suicidal thoughts. Lou insists he needs to go back to Joe’s program despite Ruben’s protests. Lou leaves to get on a plane, and she makes Ruben promise not to hurt himself, and he makes her promise to wait for him and write to him.
He settles in, and Joe makes him turn over his phone and his keys. Ruben attends his first meeting, where Joe has to sign for him since he doesn’t know any. He feels isolated at group meals because he can’t communicate with anyone. Joe gives everyone their assignments for the day – Ruben’s is “learn how to be deaf”. He takes Ruben to a classroom of deaf children, where the teacher Diane (Lauren Ridloff) begins teaching him basic sign language. He sneaks into Joe’s office and reads an e-mail from Lou. Meanwhile, Lou tells him the next day at the crack of dawn and put him in a room, where he will sit until he can’t sit any longer, and then when that happens he wants him to write anything at all. Joe says he will be doing the same thing. Ruben arrives in the room and screams, angrily.
One of the kids in Diane’s class is particularly restless, so Ruben offers to take him out on the playground, where he uses the metal slide as a percussion instrument, banging it to rhythms the kid can feel. Over time with the students, Ruben begins to learn and become better at sign language, and he also begins writing as Joe instructed and communicating with the others at the facility. He even begins teaching the kids how to drum. Joe tells him how valued he’s become at the program and says there could be an opportunity for him to stay on and work there or possibly with the kids. Ruben says he’ll think about it, sneaks back onto the computer and learns that Lou has been performing solo shows. He goes to the RV, pulls out a set of spare keys, and tries to play on his drum set.
He decides to sell all his music equipment to get money for his surgery, and makes an appointment with an audiologist. He sells the RV but tells the man he’s selling it to he’ll only make the deal if he has the option of buying it back from him within eight weeks. Joe has the ear surgery, after which he is told by doctors he will experience complete silence until the device can be activated in a few weeks. When he returns, Joe is waiting, and Ruben tells him what he’s done. Joe is hurt and betrayed, and Ruben asks to borrow money to buy back the RV – Joe tells him he sounds like an addict. He asks Joe if he was doing his writing exercise, he ever stopped and lived in the silence – he says there’s a place there that’s close to god. Ruben asks if he can stay a few more weeks until he gets the device activated, but Joe tells him his whole program is built on the idea that being deaf is not a handicap or something to fix – they need that message and too many people are counting on him, so he tells Ruben that he must pack his bags.
Ruben returns to the specialist to have his device turned on. He can hear sounds again, but they sounded distorted and sort of static and metallic, and he is upset that he isn’t going to get his hearing back to what it was. The doctor tells him to take it easy and get adjusted to how things sound now. Ruben flies out to Paris, where Lou is, to surprise her. When he gets to her door, a man answers the intercom. Lou’s father, Richard (Mathieu Amalric), a songwriter, brings Ruben in and makes him some food. They discuss Ruben’s childhood, and how Richard felt disconnected from Lou when she began seeing Ruben, but Richard admits it’s not Ruben’s fault – things were hard after Louise’s mother killed herself.
Lou comes home and is excited to see Ruben, and he’s happy that she isn’t scarred – she has a history of self-harm. Richard’s father is having a big party that night, during which the loud noise and lots of people make it hard for Ruben to make out anything, so he goes off alone and doesn’t talk to anyone. Richard stops the party to ask Lou to sing a song with him while he plays piano. Ruben can only hear the song rough and distorted and full of static. That night, Ruben talks to Lou about resuming the tour and getting back on the road, and notices she seems reticent. He tells her “it’s okay”, saying she saved his life. She tells him he saved her life. They cry together, realizing their relationship is over and the past is gone.
The next morning Ruben leaves before Lou is awake. He walks around Paris, sitting in a park and listening to the bells chime. He takes the device off his head, and sits in the silence.
Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed) is a recovering addict and a drummer for a heavy metal rock band called Blackgammon with his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). He suddenly has an extreme loss of hearing, and continues playing in the band despite his doctor's advice, and loses all his hearing. He goes to a program run by Joe (Paul Raci), to help stay sober him learn to live with being deaf. Ruben learns to live there, but desperate to reunite with Lou, he gets a cochlear implant and is asked by Joe to leave the facility. The implant works to an extent - sound is very static and hard to hear but it's more than nothing - and he goes to Paris to reunite with Lou. They both realize that their relationship is a thing of the past, and part on sad but good terms. He sits alone on a bench and removes the device from his head, choosing instead to sit in the silence.