When you get an opportunity “GO” see CODA!
By MICHAEL YOUNG, Contributing Writer, QDRNews
CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) won all three Oscars it was nominated for, including this year’s Best Picture race. It is a simple story, simply told, but is one so very appropriate for our times right now. If you haven’t seen it, then definitely add it to your list.
Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones in an Oscar-worthy performance) is a high-school senior in a Massachusetts fishing town (the movie was filmed in and around Gloucester). She is much like any other senior, except for a couple of things that make her unique. First is that she is the youngest child in a family of four, the other three all being deaf. Her father, Frank (Troy Kotsur - this year’s Supporting Actor Winner), is a life-long fisherman and owns a trawler. He is madly in love with her mother Jackie (Marlee Matlin - the first deaf actor to win an Oscar 35 years ago), and, importantly, they “can’t keep their hands off each other”. Leo (Daniel Durant) is Ruby’s very protective, older brother. All four of them wake up each morning at 3:00 AM and bring in a haul of fish for market before Ruby gets on a bicycle to go to school.
As the only hearing person in her family, Ruby is often called on to communicate between her family and the outside world. In one absolutely hilarious scene, she has to mediate between her parents and their doctor when they have to discuss a certain problem they are both having with their private parts. In other meetings, she must stand up for her family’s fishing business in a roomful of people who are clearly not her equals and who even don’t view her parents that way either! The responsibility for her family that falls on Ruby is huge and not typical for someone her age.
But there is one more difference Ruby has from other kids her age - she can sing. This is established right off in the movie when she sings on the trawler, even though neither her brother or her father have the faintest idea what she is singing or what it sounds like. In a delightful series of encounters, her talents are finally recognized by the high school choir instructor, Bernardo Villalobos (Eugenio Derbez). He convinces her that she can, indeed, sing well and gets her to apply to a prestigious music college in Boston.
So we have Ruby now choosing between two futures. One where her family really needs her as their interpreter with the outside world and another where her own budding talents suggest that she has real promise on her own in a very different world.
Perhaps what makes this film resonate so much with audiences - it is tied with Dune for second among all 28 mainstream Oscar films in audience ratings - is that the essential conflict in this story is really shared by all of us, despite the setting in a deaf family. That conflict is the eternal one between the expectations and norms of the various groups that we as people belong to, and the fundamental need for self-expression, to become your own person. Ruby, as the only hearing person in a deaf family, plays a very important role. But if she is to become her own self, then maybe she can’t continue to play that role forever. And her family, must come to understand that and release her from their own lives. What makes this especially poignant is that Ruby’s dream is based on something that the family cannot possibly understand - you can’t appreciate singing if you can’t hear it!
If they really love her, they have to be able to let her go and yet it is for something totally beyond their comprehension!
“GO!” Is a command used at least three times in this film. Each time it is in a different context, but it always retains a special meaning. It is not used in a negative way to indicate contempt or anger, but rather, especially towards the end, it is an expression of love and of the desire to see someone become their own person.