Teenage Ruby (Emilia Jones, a young actor to watch), is the only hearing person in her Massachusetts family and vital to their struggling fishing business. When her school’s demanding choirmaster (Eugenio Derbez) tells her she has some serious latent singing chops and a shot at a prestigious Boston music school scholarship, she must decide between her wonderful family and her own, bigger dreams.
I know, I know. You’ve seen this heartwarming movie before, many many times. But you’d be doing yourself a huge disservice to write off this Sundance fave as movie-of-the-week pap. Director Sian Heder transcends the material’s formulaic nature, eschews cliché, and delivers the feel-good movie of the year. And Lord knows we need some of that!
Ruby’s mom and dad are played by Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur, her resentful brother by Daniel Durant. Notably, all three actors are deaf, and all terrific. The family dynamic Heder creates rings true, the dialog sparkles (some of it signing and of course subtitled), and it frequently blindsides you with splashes of delightful humor. And the denouement is so spot on I wanted to stand up and applaud.
My criteria for a good movie is one that makes me laugh, cry and think. This does all three. And if by the end you haven’t shed at least one happy tear, I don’t ever want to meet you. (111 min)