The title of the film CODA: Child of Deaf Parents (2021) itself suggests the plot of the film. At the center of it is Ruby Rossi, an ordinary teenager from an unusual family. Her parents and older brother are deaf, unlike her. And this fact largely determines the life of a girl. She is much more involved in family life than most of her peers, as she was assigned the role of a sign language interpreter for her relatives. Ruby also takes part in the family business in her spare time from school. She fishes with her father and brother and actively participates in bidding when selling fish, because a successful transaction requires perseverance in communication – without a sign language interpreter, nowhere. In addition, Ruby has an outlet and a serious hobby: she loves and knows how to sing. This talent gives her a chance for higher education and a career, but how will her parents react to this?
The conflict between fathers and children is the main meaning of the film “The Child of Deaf Parents”. Parents’ reluctance to take their children’s problems or dreams seriously is not a new idea for a movie. However, this problem is eternal, almost all families go through it, and films on such topics are always relevant for viewers. The director and screenwriter were faced with the task of bringing something new to the plot, giving the story an individuality, while leaving the development of events as natural as possible, without overdramatizing. There is no doubt that the authors of the film succeeded with brilliance. The film was a huge success at the 2021 Sundance Independent Film Festival, garnering major awards there, including Best Picture and the Audience Award.
What is the highlight of this story and how does it help to reveal the meaning of the film? The title suggests again: Ruby’s parents are deaf. They are not just deaf to the dreams, ambitions and fears of their child, as is often the case in families, they literally do not hear the voice of their daughter. But it is her voice from the first frames that leaves no doubt: the girl has a true talent that needs to be given way. And this situation is one of the main problems that the film highlights. Teenagers have to prove their right to make decisions, their right to dream, to build their lives the way they want, and not the way their parents decided.
It is gratifying that the film does not take an edifying position, but simultaneously highlights many other problems and details. First of all, the issue of isolation that the family experiences due to deafness is raised. The difficulties of doing business are also shown, both in the industry as a whole, and in the seemingly imperceptible problems that deaf fishermen deal with. For example, there is no one in the team to even maintain radio contact, which creates a conflict with the police.
The problem of isolation also applies to the main character, despite the fact that she has no health problems. Peers laugh at her, she reacts painfully to how different her family is from others. But even in her own family, she sometimes feels like an outcast. Her passion for music is seen by deaf parents as a protest and even disrespect for their position. And the need to work deprives Ruby of the opportunity to find an outlet for herself.
The film talks about the importance for a teenager to have a community in which it is not scary to show their abilities, which would support and help to realize opportunities. The film also emphasizes the importance of the role of an attentive teacher and mentor in this process. When Ruby gets into the choir, she finds herself and it is with the help of the teacher that she gradually understands her true abilities.
The film unobtrusively tells parents of teenagers how important it is to see an individuality in a child, and not just a continuation of the family. The director symbolically conveys this idea in the episode in which Ruby’s parents came to her concert. While the mother of the heroine is bored and continues her usual line of behavior, the father finds the strength to look at his daughter through the eyes of others. The reaction of the audience to her performance speaks for itself and makes the father change his mind.
I am glad that the filmmakers, in their desire to make a socially significant film, are consistent in their choice of actors. Ruby Rossi’s entire family is played by deaf actors, and the director has spent a lot of time learning sign language. The life and various features of the life of such a family are shown with attention to detail, but without excessive drama, but on the contrary, with a great deal of humor. As a result, the film is very balanced, does not dramatize disability, takes away from the idea that with deafness it is impossible to live a full life, create a family and run a successful business, you just need to be able to adapt to circumstances, which is what this unusual and very interesting family is trying to do.