Darius Marder makes subtle decisions that make Sound of Metal feel fresh and humanistic. The most noticeable of those decisions is the incredible sound design. Rather than portraying Ruben’s hearing loss with the same dulling of noises, each iteration we get inside Ruben’s head sounds slightly different, devolving in sound quality as his hearing ability does. After Ruben’s diagnosis, he visits a retreat for the hearing impaired – a resolution that requires some heavy coaxing from his girlfriend and bandmate, Lou (Olivia Cooke). The retreat home is run by Joe (Paul Raci), a Vietnam veteran who lost his hearing in the war and can read Ruben’s lips. Joe breaks Ruben in with a heavy dose of tough love, but Raci still makes Joe a likeable character.