CODA, a film that initially premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, is a coming-of-age film that follows the story of a hearing teenage girl who is a child of deaf adults (CODA). I will admit I didn’t know much about the film, other than reading that Marlee Matlin is in the film. For those that don’t know Marlee Matlin, she is a prominent deaf actress that has been in numerous TV shows and films. She is also a deaf activist. This had sparked my interest in watching the film, and when it premiered on the Apple TV+ streaming service on August 13, 2021, I knew I had to see it.

CODA is actually an English language remake of a 2014 French Language film La Famille Bélier. The writer and director is Sian Heder, whom used to be a writer on Orange is the New Black. When Marlee Matlin joined the project playing the mother Jackie, she insisted that the production company cast deaf actors for all the remaining deaf characters in the film. This actually worked very well for the film, as I had never seen deaf actors as the main cast in a film before. I really enjoyed seeing sign language used on film, as I am sure most of us have never seen how deaf people live normal day to day life.

Emila Jones plays Ruby, a teenage girl that can hear among her deaf parents Frank (Troy Kotsur) and Jackie (Marlee Matlin). Her brother Leo (Daniel Durant) is also deaf. The film shows her struggles growing up, as she helps her family every way that she is able to, while juggling school and teenage life. In the film, she discovers that she is a gifted singer, and further develops her singing, which eventually leads to her applying for music school.

Emilia Jones has a beautiful singing voice, and her performance is nothing but astounding. I will admit that I normally do not watch teenage romance films, but Emilia Jones really made it work. I had not seen a film before that involved a majority of the speaking roles use sign language. It was very refreshing to see something different, seeing her frustrations with her family using sign language.

Emilia Jones has a beautiful singing voice, and her performance is nothing but astounding.

Wizzard on CODA
Emilia Jones as Ruby, Troy Kotsur as Frank, and Marlee Matlin as Jackie

The real highlight was seeing deaf actors Troy Kotsur, Marlee Matlin, and Daniel Durant on screen. Their use of sign language to portray emotions was amazing. Marlee Matlin did a good job of assisting in the casting of other deaf actors in this film. Frank (Troy Kotsur) and Leo (Daniel Durant) were amazing, as for the first time, I was seeing an entire film where I got to see deaf actors act using sign language. The deaf cast were brilliant in their use of sign language and body language in acting out their roles. I would say their performances in this film are award worthy.

The deaf cast were brilliant in their use of sign language and body language in acting out their roles

Wizzard on CODA

The director Sian Heder did a good job, as did the deaf cast along with Emilia Jones. This film is very well put together and is something a bit different from what I had seen before in a teenage romance film or a coming-of-age story. The fact that they used deaf actors in the film really made this film a whole lot better. A bit of a tear jerker and very wholesome, I would recommend this film to anyone, as I think this film is definitely an Oscar contender. CODA is available now streaming on Apple TV+.

My recommendation: A Must Watch

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