Sound of Metal
Ruben is a drummer and one half of the metal duo Blackgammon, along with the singer and his girlfriend, Lou. They live in an RV while driving across the United States to perform gigs. When Ruben begins to suddenly lose his hearing, he goes to a pharmacy seeking a diagnosis. The pharmacist refers him to a doctor, who performs a hearing test and finds that Ruben can only make out 20–30 percent of words he hears and his hearing will deteriorate rapidly; moreover, although cochlear implants may benefit him, their high cost is not covered by insurance. The doctor suggests that Ruben eliminate all exposure to loud noises and later undergo further testing, but Ruben continues to perform. Lou learns of Ruben’s condition and wants to stop performing for his safety, but he wants to continue. Lou is also concerned about his sobriety, as he is a recovering drug addict. They call his sponsor figure, Hector, who finds a rural shelter for deaf recovering addicts that accepts Ruben, run by a man named Joe, a recovering alcoholic who lost his hearing in the Vietnam War. Ruben leaves with Lou because they will not let her live there with him and he wants only the implants. Lou, anxious for his well-being, leaves and persuades Ruben to return to the shelter.
Ruben begins to meet the other members of the shelter as he attends meetings and settles into his new life. He is introduced to Diane, a teacher, and the children in her class, and begins to learn American Sign Language. Joe tasks Ruben with writing endlessly and sitting peacefully in an effort to make him comfortable with the silence, and confides to him that he himself will do the same, simultaneously. Ruben joins Diane’s class and starts to connect with the children and the rest of the community. He gives the children and Diane basic drumming lessons. So far, Ruben’s stay has been sponsored by a church. Joe offers him a more permanent way of staying on, as an employee of the community, and tells him to think about it. Ruben periodically uses the computer to see what Lou is up to, discovering her to be experimenting with her own music in Paris. He gets his friend Jenn to sell his drums and other music equipment, then sells his RV, using the money for cochlear implant surgery. Ruben asks Joe to loan him money to buy back his RV while he awaits activation of the implant. Joe refuses, commenting that Ruben looks and sounds like an addict. Brokenhearted, Joe then asks Ruben to leave the community, as it is founded on the belief that deafness is not a handicap.