Before watching CODA, I had to look up what the acronym CODA stood for: Child Of a Deaf Parent. The irony of looking up an identifier that applies to yourself was not lost on me. It’s so weird to learn about something that applies to you so late in life. However, because deaf people are so underrepresented in the media, it makes sense — there are no movies from when I was young about people like my mother. There are especially none that achieved such high praise in the reviews.
Looking at the reviews of this movie after watching it, however, I was stunned by the amount of critiques that claimed CODA was too formulaic in its drama and was constructed specifically to be a “tear-jerker”. I was shocked because, to me, they missed an obvious part of a film that strives to represent an underrepresented group of people. A “formulaic” movie allows the viewer to focus less on the complex plot and more on putting oneself into the experience of being deaf or growing up in a home with a deaf parent. Even further, the easily-accessible plot helped those who have never seen sign language before keep up throughout the movie.
While other films featuring deaf characters with a more creative plot, such as A Quiet Place, are also important, the complex storyline does distract from the representation of the deaf community. With a simple plot, CODA encourages us to consider the ways deaf families go through the same pains as hearing families. Struggles such as growing up, letting go of your child as they enter adulthood, relying on each other, as well as the everyday problems of living with family allow us to empathize with people we did not think we had so much in common with.
This movie was a powerful reminder that we all worry about those we love. Letting go of that worry, even when we are sure we’re needed, is one of the hardest lessons in life. The experience is not specific to hearing people, or deaf people, or anyone in between. In a world where so many of us feel different, it’s beautiful to watch a film that shows us how we are the same.
Review by Jacki Solat