REVIEW: ‘CODA’ delivers with humor and plenty of heart

Sometimes a movie comes along and reinvigerates a person’s appreciation for a genre.

That’s what “CODA” has done for coming of age/teen drama films.

The title of the movie is an acryonym, meaning Child of Deaf Adults. The main character is Ruby (Emilia Jones), a teenager whose parents Frank (Troy Kotsur) Jackie (Marlee Matlin), as well as her brother Leo (Daniel Durant) are all deaf. On top of attending school, Ruby helps in the family fishing business, working on the boat and acting as a sign language interpretor for sales.

During her time at home, Ruby is a music lover and she expresses this on the boat with her singing. This inspires her to take up choir in her senior year of high school, where the film picks up. The movie then follows how she has to balance her job and her singing lessons, as well as her family’s reaction to her doing something they can’t enjoy or enage with.

“CODA” is a wonderful dramatic comedy for the family. While it falls into a couple young adult genre traps here and there, this one always bounces back in big ways, continually winning over the viewer.

The film’s story is a fairly straightforward one. The protagonist has a major interest in something and wants to pursue it, which creates some conflict and a challenge for the character to overcome.

While it’s a familiar narrative structure, though, it sets itself apart with its unique take on a family unit. Ruby’s journey is such a compelling one to follow, as she has to navigate several different elements in her life.

The family drama at play is engaging while Ruby’s ambitions of being a singer gives an audience something to really root for. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Courtesy AppleTV, Pathe Films and Vendome Pictures.

Jones deserves a lot of credit for making this work so well. She really captures the struggles this character is going through.

Ruby isn’t just experiencing typical teenage angst. She is stressed from having to be an interpretor her whole life and is concerned about going to college because of what it will mean for the family business. Jones is able to convincingly get that stress across, as well as several other emotions.

The rest of the cast playing the family give solid performances, too. From moments of anger to sequences where love and appreciation are shown, everything comes across as authentic.

Also deserving praise was Eugenio Derbez as the choir teacher. While at first the character appears to be somewhat one-note, Derbez gives enough to the role to make it enjoyable to watch.

The biggest issues with the movie is when it leans too heavily in stereotypical tropes. There’s a walk-in on the parents gag, a town hall scene with some angry citizens and a bit of high school romance melodrama that feel a bit over the top.

But as previously stated, the film recovers rather quickly. Plus, the romance turns out to be pretty cute.

“CODA” is coming of age movie definitely worth watching. The film is enjoyable from start to finish, including heartfelt musical moment in the closing scenes. 4 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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