Living with her deaf parents and older brother, Rubi Rossi, played by Emilia Jones, is the only hearing member of her family. In her last year of high-school, Ruby works part-time on her family’s fishing boat, with plans to start working full-time after graduation. But after joining the school choir on a whim, Ruby discovers how deep her love for music and singing runs, and begins to question what she truly wants to do with her future.
Naturally, the dynamic created between Ruby’s love for music and the wishes of her deaf parents is vastly intriguing, to say the least. The double meaning of the title, being both an acronym for ‘child of deaf adults’ and a passage located at the end of a piece of music, is the perfect link to make this dynamic work; Ruby struggles to balance her commitment to her family as a CODA and her commitment to starting the next passage of her life by bringing the current one to a close.
That dynamic is absolutely where the heart of the film lies. The conflicting interests of each character are written in a very sympathetic and relatable way; you understand Ruby’s desire for independence, but also her parents’ inability to ever really understand her passion. I found myself truly caring what happens to these characters and becoming much more invested in their stories than I had expected.
As is to be expected with any coming-of-age film, CODA relies on many of the same tropes we’ve seen so much. What separates this film is that those tropes are used in a relatively fresh context — Ruby’s unique position in her family. The familiarities are also used sparingly enough so as to not overwhelm the plot itself, but add a more endearing quality to the story and its characters; they work to enhance emotional resonance instead of dictating it.
The only glaring critique I have for CODA is that some of the characters feel unnecessary to the story. Both Ruby’s best friend and love interest are just kinda… there, with the latter especially feeling more like a plot-convenience or the filling out of an ‘unlikely romance’ trope. This issue is particularly glaring in the face of the FANTASTIC writing of the four family members.
CODA uses smart character writing and tropes to create a familiar but unique coming-of-age story. It’s hilarious at times, heartwarming at others, and compelling and investing throughout… making it a very entertaining watch.
Overall rating: 8/10