Apple TV’s CODA (2021) Review: Raw, Heartwarming and Powerful

CODA is an American comedy and drama that was recently released on Apple TV+. The film is an adaptation of the 2014 French comedy La Famille Bélier. It is directed by Sian Heder and stars Emilia Jones, Marlee Matlin, Eugenio Derbez, Daniel Durant, and Troy Kotsur among other cast members. The total run time hits just above the one-hour and fifty minutes mark.

CODA (Acronym: Child of Deaf Adult) is the story of Ruby, who is the only hearing member of her deaf family. She works early morning shifts to help keep her family’s fishing business afloat (pun intended) and accepts her fate of being bound to this for the better part of her life. So when she discovers a growing passion (and talent!) for music, both her family and she is faced with life-changing decisions to make.

Trailer for CODA

Apple TV+ describes it as:

Gifted with a voice that her parents can’t hear, seventeen-year-old Ruby (Emilia Jones), is the sole hearing member of a deaf family—a CODA, Child of Deaf Adults.

Her life revolves around acting as interpreter for her parents (Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur) and working on the family’s struggling fishing boat every day before school with her father and older brother (Daniel Durant). But when Ruby joins her high school’s choir club, she discovers a gift for singing and finds herself drawn to her duet partner Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo).

Encouraged by her enthusiastic, tough-love choirmaster (Eugenio Derbez) to apply to a prestigious music school, Ruby finds herself torn between the obligations she feels to her family and the pursuit of her own dreams.

Via the Apple TV+ official site
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A still from CODA featuring Emilia Jones

– This CODA review does not contain any spoilers –

So you think you’ve seen every coming-of-age movie out there? Do you find them all redundant and predictable?

Try again. CODA is best described as a classic coming-of-age movie, with a rather interesting setting. And so full of heart, this one is unlike anything you’ve seen before. Not only is the plot engaging and well thought out, but the premise in itself is so interesting, that you’re drawn in automatically. While on the surface CODA may seem like the same old tale of a small-town girl making it big, it serves to be so much more than just another film trope.

CODA embraces all the cliches that come with its genre, but that doesn’t change the fact that the impact of the film is drawn from a plot point that is rather unexplored within the constraints of cinema. Because of this, CODA has a charming A24 air to it, and that only makes the watch experience better.

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A still from CODA featuring Emilia Jones and Marlee Matlin

What really does stand out, is the way in which Hender plays with sound. The sound design of a movie is the most important and oftentimes overlooked part of filmmaking. There’s a lot that can be said by a certain sound (or a lack thereof) backing the visuals. Hender uses a mix of fun vintage classics, dialogues, and then absolute silence to shift between the perspective of the world and that of Ruby’s parents. It seems to be his way of saying, “This is what they see, this is what they hear. Pay attention.”

CODA does have the “everything will turn out alright” predictability quotient that works against its brilliance, but it doesn’t devalue the main message. The cast shines in their respective roles, with Matlin and Kotsur playing “cool parents with no boundaries” to perfection.

A still from CODA: Ruby works before school
A still from CODA: Ruby works before school

Final Verdict: CODA

A social outcast, a teenage heartthrob, a growing passion, an eccentric teacher who is secretly everyone’s favourite character and antagonizing parents, CODA has all of those tropes that characterize every film in this genre. But it makes use of them to turn CODA into something so utterly unique and inspired, which is what makes it worth watching. An amazing film that will leave you in tears at least once.

CODA is now streaming on Apple TV+.

Also Read: The White Lotus Episode 6 Recap: Death and Departures

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Overall Score


CODA has all of the tropes that characterize every film in this genre. But it makes use of them to turn CODA into something so utterly unique and inspired, which is what makes it worth watching.

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