Sound of Metal
Keeping at bay his inner demons by devoting himself to art, metal drummer, Ruben, has been living for the moment for the past four years. Then, while on tour with his lead-singer/girlfriend, Lou, Ruben realises that his hearing is rapidly deteriorating. As this sudden hearing loss turns his world upside down, and numbing fear paired with angry denial take over, Ruben reluctantly accepts to join a small deaf community overseen by Joe, a compassionate Vietnam War veteran. Now, Ruben needs to find some solid ground, understand that being deaf is not a handicap and that deafness isn't something to fix. But, is Ruben willing to accept his new life and learn how to be deaf?
Ruben is a drummer and one half of the metal duo Blackgammon along with the singer, his girlfriend, Lou. They live in a RV while driving across the country to perform gigs. Ruben begins to suddenly lose his hearing. He goes to a pharmacy in order to figure out what is happening to him. The pharmacist refers him to a doctor that Ruben is able to see immediately. The doctor performs a hearing test and determines Ruben can only successfully hear 20-30 percent of words and his hearing will continue to deteriorate rapidly. He may be able to get cochlear implants to correct it. However, the implants are very expensive and are not covered by insurance. The doctor suggests that Ruben must first eliminate all exposure to loud noises and after some time undergo further testing. In spite of this Ruben continues to perform.
Lou finds out what is going on and wants to stop performing for Ruben's sake and safety, but Ruben wants to continue. She is also concerned about his sobriety, as he is a recovering drug addict. They call his narcotics anonymous sponsor, Hector. Hector finds a place for deaf recovering addicts that accepts Ruben. It is a rural community 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 is only concerned with getting the implant. Lou leaves and gets Ruben to go back to the community, as her main concern is his well-being.
Now back at Joe's community, Ruben begins to meet the other members, attend meetings, and settle into his new life. He is introduced to Diane, a teacher, and the children in her class. He also begins to learn American Sign Language. Joe tasks Ruben with writing endlessly and sitting peacefully, in an effort to be comfortable with the silence. Joe tells Ruben he will be doing the same, simultaneously. Ruben joins Diane's class and starts to connect with the children, as well as the rest of the community. He gives the children and Diane basic drumming lessons.
Up to this point, Ruben's stay has been sponsored by a church. Joe offers him a more permanent way of staying on and tells him to think about it. Ruben periodically uses the computer to check in on Lou and see what she is up to, discovering her to be experimenting with her own music in Paris. He gets his friend Jenn to sell his drums, sound board, and other music equipment. Ruben then sells his RV. He uses the money to get cochlear implant surgery. Ruben asks Joe if he can stay on for 3-4 weeks until the implants activate. Joe refuses, as the foundation of the community is built on the belief that deafness is not a handicap.
Once the cochlear implants are activated they allow Ruben to hear but not in a traditional sense and he has to get used to it. He is disappointed, however, to find that the implants cause irritating feedback that disrupt his attempts to regain his old way of life. Ruben flies to meet Lou at her wealthy father Richard's house in Belgium, where she has settled into a new lifestyle. Richard welcomes him and allows him to stay there. At a gathering, Lou and her father perform a duet, though Ruben's implants prevent him from enjoying it. Ruben and Lou discuss the possibility of playing music and touring again. Ruben notices this makes Lou anxious and tells her everything is ok, that she saved his life. Lou tells him that he saved hers too and the two realize that the time they have spent apart has made them very different people. The next morning, he wakes up, takes his things, and leaves while Lou is still sleeping. After being bothered yet again by the noises of feedback, he sits down outside and removes the cochlear implant processors, enjoying the silence.