CODA is the heartwarming story about a teenager having to make the painstaking decision of pursuing her own desires or denying her dreams to stay with her family.
Ruby (Emilia Jones) is in her senior year of high school and is the sole hearing member of her deaf family. Being a CODA (Child Of Deaf Adults), she is heavily relied upon as an interpreter, assisting in the family’s fishing business before school each day. After joining the school’s choir club, she discovers a gift for singing via her enthusiastic yet no-nonsense teacher Bernardo Villalobos (Eugenio Derbez). Once she falls in love with singing, she finds herself torn between taking her passion to the next step and foregoing her dreams for the sake of the family business.
Emilia Jones is amazing in this film from all sides. Introducing viewers to the CODA experience while making a passionate plea to simply be a teenager was delightful. Of course there’s the occasional gut-punch to “the feels”, but it’s a well-balanced delivery of sorts. You may get hit with emotions for one minute but spend the next 20 empathizing with her since we’ve all been or will be teens at some point. Let’s not even start on the ridiculous task of being able to act, sing, sign, and swim. Jones does an excellent job projecting her emotions in silence in such a beautiful way that all audiences will be able to relate.
Her parents, played by Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur, had fantastic on-screen chemistry. The comedy, the disagreements, the good and the bad, were just like any other family’s. The only difference was that the conversation was in sign language. In their tight-knit family, they rely heavily on Ruby’s ability to translate for them since she’s the only one that can speak and sign. As Ruby grows, the parents do as well. Most notably, recognizing Ruby as their teenage daughter and not their translator.
The film is also a huge victory in the fight for representation. Many stateside aren’t familiar with the French film, Les Intouchables, but some of you might’ve heard of it’s American copycat, The Upside. The story surrounds a rich man who’s paralyzed and his polar-opposite caretaker who can’t stay out of trouble. While it was noted, but not such a big deal in France, cinephiles in the U.S. went crazy after the casting was announced. The outcry for a handicap actor to the play a handicapped role in a true story was deafening. In a move that can only be described as brazen, those cries went ignored. Thankfully, CODA doesn’t have to share that same fate as their casting was reflective of the setting and the plot.
CODA gets a 9 out of 10. This inclusive, funny, heartwarming film is a fantastic addition to the Apple TV+ family. You can watch CODA now on Apple TV+ or in select theaters.
Photos: Courtesy of Apple TV+