Review: CODA

CODA screenshot

Year: 2021 | Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Based on some of the takes I’ve seen regarding this film and its perceived deservedness of its Best Picture award at this year’s Academy Awards, I was not expecting to love CODA, but goddamnit…I just did.

I’ve seen so much criticism about this film being a “crowd-pleaser” that was perceived as a lesser film than many of the other nominated films, but to me, CODA much less of a “Hallmark movie” (other peoples’ words, not mine) than, say Minari (which received universal acclaim in 2020), mostly because the latter relies on a terribly contrived and tonally-inconsistent climax to drive its emotional resonance home, while this film does so much more organically.

Sure, it doesn’t feel as strikingly original as The Power of the Dog (a film I will admit I was lukewarm on), and the use of sign language isn’t quite as well-executed and moving as in Drive My Car (the nominated film that truly deserved Best Picture), but everything about this film is charming and grounded. The performances are all natural, the soundtrack slaps, the cinematography is effective (if not slightly uninspired, but we’re not talking King Richard levels of uncreativity here), and the emotional payoff is genuinely earned. Oh, and it features one of the better single uses of the word “fuck” in a PG-13-rated film.

I know that this film has also garnered a fair amount of criticism from within the deaf community. Speaking as a hearing person (who I recognize was most likely the target audience), I personally thought that the film was a touching depiction of the struggles and triumphs of a (mostly) deaf family, but I always make it a point to listen to and amplify the voices of minority communities in situations like these, whether I liked the film or not. I think it’s just as important to consider the criticism as well as the praise for, well… any film, really. But especially in instances like this where a minority community is portrayed in films targeted toward audiences that do not belong to that community. With that in mind, I highly suggest that anybody who is reading this to check out some of the criticisms that I’ve mentioned, such as those found in this tweet thread, this review and this video.

With all of that being said, I, for one, have absolutely no complaints about CODA pulling the “upset” over The Power of the Dog for Best Picture. Frankly, I enjoyed this film a lot more.

Language: English, Spanish, American Sign Language
Genre: Drama, Romance
Runtime: 1 hr. 51 min.
Rating: PG-13

Director: Siân Heder
Starring: Emilia Jones, Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur, Eugenio Derbez, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo

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