Siân Heder is a Breath of Dramedy Fresh Air


By: Isaac P. Ale
November 30, 2021

coda-2 CODA [2021]

Film

Have you ever seen those videos of kids at baseball games, a glove in one hand and a mammoth sized heap of cotton candy in the other? Their face resembles that of a dog trying to lick peanut butter off its nose but not quite sure how.

Then it happens.

A fly ball soaring into the outfield, mere feet from the cotton candy chomper, becomes an oppportunity to catch a ball! Of course, the towering adults nearby reach up and snag the ball out of the air and after a quick cheer from the crowd, they look down at the unsuspecting child, probably now out of cotton candy -- but that's to be determined. And the proprietor of the fly ball taps them on the shoulder and offers them the greatest gift a kid at a baseball game can get: a caught fly ball!!

You then see the unadulterated wave of sheer joy rumble up from the depths, and a smile visible from the International Space Station breaks out across the child's face.

Another comprable experience is watching kids after NBA games meet their favorite players or when they become the recipient of Russell Westbrook's shoes after a game. The joyous jumping and smiling is an exuberant moment to be remembered forever.

This is the only real way I can describe the overwhelming amount of joy I got out of watching CODA.

CODA, standing for Child of Deaf Adults, is the story of Ruby Rossi, played by Emilia Jones, the only hearing member of her family who has a passion for music. The film is written and directed by none other than Siân Heder, who is known for her writing work on the acclaimed Netflix show Orange is the New Black.

The amount of heart that Heder was able to weave into the fabric of this film is extraordinary, and I still can't fully wrap my head around it. As we watch the progression of Ruby's music dreams, along with her awkward High School romance with Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), we get a front row seat to the beautiful family dynamic between the Rossi's. One of the greatest proponents of the heart, and undeniable comedy, of the film is the supporting extraordinaire that is Ruby's dad Frank Rossi, played by Troy Kotsur.

Let me tell you, Kotsur is fantastic in this role. You won't see a finer usage of expression in a movie this year. Is this hyperbole?? Possibly. But Kotsur is really the centerpiece of emotion in the Rossi family dynamic. Whether balancing a crumbling fishing business with failing financials or trying to relate to his hearing daughter's yearn to sing, he's at the forefront of all the conflict and struggle in the family.

And where there's struggle, there's success.

There's a scene close to the end of the movie, after the family goes to Ruby's concert, where Frank and Ruby are sitting on the bed of his truck. Frank, wanting to connect more with his daughter and her dreams asks her what she was singing about and to sing it for him.

What transpires next is one of the most heart-warming and beautiful moments in a film I've seen since Carl gave Russell the Ellie badge at the end of Up.

Of course, aside from Kotsur, the rest of the Rossi family adds additional elements of depth and family exposition as each character has struggles, hopes and dreams involving Ruby. Her brother Leo, played by Daniel Durant, and mother Jackie, played by Marlee Matlin have some excellent performances and add to the cosmic gumbo of emotional warmth and beauty in the film.

Now at this point I'm making this movie sound like a real tear-jerker, a family drama that is designed to just tickle the ole heart strings.

While this is absolutely true, one thing you should know is that Siân Heder not only wrote a heart warming family film, but she added in some side splitting comedic moments as well! Her ability to so casually have these jokes in the dialogue and interactions of her characters, all while contributing to the overall character arcs of the film is outrageous. Nobody should be this good at their job!!!*

Lastly, it's fantastic that we actually get to see deaf actors play deaf roles. The authenticity of the characters adds to the depth of what we see on screen, and there's nothing more true than the notion that representation matters. Additionally Eternals was released this year as well, giving us Lauren Ridloff playing Makkari which brought ASL to the MCU. The big news with that is the release of the movie, along with Ridloff's performance, resulted in a 250% increase in Google searches for how to learn sign language1.

Froth

Knowing this film would be brimming with emotional warmth, I figured I would add to that with a nice hearty Porter -- and the cold rainy weather makes that a real slice of heaven on top of it. My beer of choice was the Coco Jones Coconut Porter from Black Raven Brewing, a little bit of dessert in a can.

This was a pretty thick beer but not as heavy as one would think given its viscosity, so it was actually a very smooth drink. It has great, and I mean great, flavors of coconut that ride on some toasty vanilla, molasses, and chocolate combinations. While it is a sweeter brew, it's not overwhelming by any means. There's a nice balance drawn between the warmth, sweet flavors I mentioned, and the malt and hops bringing it into a well rounded experience.

If you're a fan of Porters, or are indifferent to them, I suggest giving this a try. You won't be disappointed!

And if you're also a fan of warmth and feeling good then you should drink this beer and watch CODA, you definitely won't be disappointed.

Coco Jones
Porter - American | 5.6% ABV
Black Raven Brewing Company
@blackravenbrewing

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