Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5
USA, 2019. Caviar. Story by Darius Marder, Derek Cianfrance, Screenplay by Darius Marder, Abraham Marder. Cinematography by Daniel Bouquet. Produced by Sacha Ben Harroche, Kathy Benz, Bert Hamelinck. Music by Nicolas Becker, Abraham Marder. Production Design by Jeremy Woodward. Costume Design by Megan Stark Evans. Film Editing by Mikkel E.G. Nielsen.
Movies about people whose lives are pushed in a whole new direction against their will are always very powerful, and this one accomplishes the task with the most grace, intelligence and poignancy since John Sayles’s Passion Fish. Ruben (Riz Ahmed) is a heavy metal drummer who tours the country in his RV with his girlfriend and lead singer Lou (Olivia Cooke), the two of them playing to enthusiastic fans in clubs before sleeping on the bus and then hitting the road the next morning. Without warning, Ruben suddenly experiences hearing loss that sends him to the pharmacist, who refers him to a doctor who has very bad news for him: he has lost the majority of his hearing and it is not coming back. A recovering drug addict, Ruben asks Lou to reach out to his sponsor who finds him a spot at a community for the deaf run by a Vietnam vet (Paul Raci) who lost his hearing on the battlefield. There Ruben is given the opportunity to face his demons about the past, his fears about the future and learn to not only cope but thrive with this new identity. He hasn’t forgotten, however, that his doctor told him about cochlear implants and it is what he is holding on to, resisting the pull towards a new identity as a deaf man despite how successfully he is integrating with people like himself, making plans to have the surgery by any means necessary despite the massive financial cost. Ruben thinks he can achieve a reset and go back to the way things were before, but fate has other things in store for him, and watching the character navigate these surprises with affecting vulnerability is part of what makes Ahmed’s performance such a revelation. Even if you are not facing as extreme a shaking up of your present circumstances as this character is, this film is a bracing and powerful reminder that life has nothing but change to offer us and is not interested in whether or not we are prepared for it, and watching Ahmed’s sensitive portrayal register all this makes for a deeply felt viewing. The middle section, focusing on the rehab, is ruled over by Raci’s confident performance, expressing a great deal of sympathy and emotion for his new charge while always fully aware of his professional responsibilities; his final moments in the film are devastating.
Academy Award Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Riz Ahmed), Best Supporting Actor (Paul Raci), Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Sound
Critics Choice Award: Best Editing (tie)
Nominations: Best Picture; Best Actor (Riz Ahmed); Best Supporting Actor (Paul Raci); Best Original Screenplay
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Actor-Drama (Riz Ahmed)
Screen Actors Guild Award Nomination: Best Male Actor (Riz Ahmed)