Granger on Film: 'Coda' is a feel-good family drama

From left: Emilia Jones, Troy Kotsur, Marlee Matlin and Daniel Durant in "CODA." MUST CREDIT: Apple TV Plus

From left: Emilia Jones, Troy Kotsur, Marlee Matlin and Daniel Durant in "CODA." MUST CREDIT: Apple TV Plus

Apple TV Plus / Handout

Did you know that CODA is an acronym for children of deaf adults?

Set in coastal Gloucester, Mass., “Coda” chronicles the reaction of a close-knit deaf family — played by three deaf actors (Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur, Daniel Durant) — to the desire of their hearing daughter (Emilia Jones) to go away to music school.

Shy 17-year-old high school senior Ruby Rossi (Jones) has always loved to sing but she panics when she attends choir auditions. As the lone hearing person in her family of fishermen, she’s served as their interpreter in all social/business interactions.

Ruby’s alarm clock goes off at 3 a.m., so she can work on their fishing trawler and then bargain with local buyers as to how much their haul will sell for. She’s exhausted, often falling asleep in class.

Since the Rossis have always isolated themselves, Ruby’s often teased and bullied. Her only friend is Gertie (Amy Forsyth), who has a crush on Ruby’s hunky older brother Miles (Durant).

Sensing Ruby’s latent talent, the eccentric choir director (Eugenio Derbez) coaches her to strive for her heart’s desire, teaming her in a duet with classmate Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo).

By incorporating American Sign Language (ASL) along with subtitles, writer/director Sian Heder opens a window into the trials and tribulations of the deaf, a segment of our culture that’s been largely isolated and ignored for many years.

Actually, this is a remake of “La Famille Belier,” a 2014 French film in which hearing actors portrayed deaf characters. But when Heder met with Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin (“Children of a Lesser God”), she resolved to cast deaf actors, along with hiring two ASL experts to ensure accuracy.

During one emotionally impactful scene, Heder totally cuts the audio, allowing us to experience the poignant isolation of a completely silent world.

Realizing the need to authentically represent people with disabilities, Apple bought this feel-good family/coming-of-age drama for a record-setting $25 million at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Coda” is a charming, crowd-pleasing 8, streaming on Apple TV+.

Susan Granger has been an on-air television and radio commentator and entertainment critic for more than 25 years. Raised in Hollywood, Granger appeared as a child actress in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, and Lassie. She currently resides in Westport.