Premise: The title is an acronym for Child of Deaf Adults, and the child in question is Ruby Rossi (a wonderful and fierce performance by newcomer Emila Jones), who is the only hearing member of her immediate family that includes dad Frank (Troy Kotsur), mom Jackie (Marlee Matlin) and brother Leo (Daniel Durant). Ruby works on the family fishing boat before and after school, being the ears and voice for the family to the other people on the docks. She joins the choir because of a boy she likes (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo of “Sing Street”) and the music teacher (Eugenio Berbez) spots Ruby’s singing talents right away and suggests she auditions for the Berklee College of Music. Ruby now has to decide if she should go to college (an option she never thought was possible) and thus leave the family without her help.
My Take: If there is one genre that seemed to dominate the home screen during the pandemic, it was the high school comedy. So, while I was happy this was a high school drama, I wasn’t looking forward to the familiar beats of a young woman asserting her own will for the first time, usually because of a boy or because of a dream. And as predicted, this movie does follow these same well-worn tropes. And yet…I found myself enjoying this one, grouping it with such excellent high school shows/movies as “The Half of It,” “Never Have I Ever” and “Plan B.” Still, there are plenty of clichés I could have lived without, especially the song choice for the audition that may have been picked for thematic reasons by the filmmakers, but it would never have been deemed “classical” enough for Berklee. But the heart was tugged, the emotions were real and I found myself won over.
VIP: Marlee Matlin. The actors are the reason to see the movie. As opposed to the original French film, “La Famille Bélier” in which this film is based, the deaf characters are here played by deaf actors. And while Durant as the angry brother is a standout as well, it was just great to see Matlin again play a role as complex and conflicted as Jackie after her Oscar-winning debut in “Children of a Lesser God” thirty-five years ago.