Exploring the spaces between cultures is one of the most significant roles of cinema today. Whenever a film manages to investigate new and underexplored cultural clashes, it is an achievement worth celebrating. Director Erika Davis-Marsh has found one such clash with her short film “CODA” (Child of Deaf Adults).
All her life, Alex (Kerrynton Jones) has found herself stuck between two worlds. The first being the world of those who can hear, the second being the world of her parents (CJ Jones and Antoinette Abbamonte), those who cannot hear. She is a CODA, and as she grows up, it leaves her conflicted when finding her place within each world. As she falls behind in her dance class due to the mental distraction, she meets Josh (Ryan Lane), a deaf man whom she begins to fall for romantically.
Alex lies to Josh and pretends to be deaf to fit into this world which has surrounded her all her life, but when Josh finds out the truth, it rejects her for the fair and straightforward reason that she can hear. Feeling betrayed, Josh tells her just to be herself; the problem is, Alex does not know who she is. This leads to her distancing herself from both worlds, leaving her alone.
Alex practises dance at a dancing school but is under the pressure of possibly being kicked out if she fails to choreograph an acceptable dance for her final exam. Lost in all other aspects of life, Alex needs to find it within herself to express her emotions through dance, and dance she does. Utilising aspects of sign Language in her movements, Alex manages to capture her turmoil and express it to her parents and Josh.
The dance was the perfect decision to tell this story; it encapsulates the space between hearing and the deaf communities brilliantly. Seeing her parents so proud of their daughter at the end was as touching as any film moment I have seen all year and generating that in the 22-minute runtime is incredible.
The cinematography sings on the screen with how it captures the blurred lines in Alex’s world. The frames slow down, and everything is just a little bit more visceral and absorbing. Moreover, the performance from Kerrynton Jones is movingly heartfelt and casting three deaf actors in the deaf roles is praiseworthy and enhanced the message. The delicate direction by Erika Davis-Marsh is also excellent.
For short films, there must be hardly any wasted seconds, for this one even more so due to the unique story “CODA” is telling. I am happy to report that in this aspect “CODA” excels. Not only are no seconds wasted, but the film also makes sure throughout that the hearing impaired can experience Alex’s story too, thanks to the use of closed captions appearing in every screening, which is a nice touch.
When investigating the space between cultures, it is vital to know precisely what you are trying to say, and “CODA” does just that. With touching performances and a heart-warming ending, this short film becomes a fine watch.
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