This article discusses the ending of the Apple TV+ film CODA, so it contains spoilers.
Ready Steady Cut Film Critic, M.N. Miller, called CODA “Cathartic. A film that put a giant lump in your throat while at the same time lifting your spirits.”
Ruby Rossi is a 17-year-old senior firecracker who is equally adept at skinning a fish while singing a lovely duet. Who cares if she frequently falls asleep in class smelling of saltwater and old, smelly fish? That’s life for her in Gloucester, Massachusetts. At the crack of dawn, she gets up to help her family with the fishing business, goes to school, and has no time for her passion— singing. It’s her favorite thing. Except her family doesn’t know it. That’s because she is the only hearing member of her deaf family.
Her father, Frank (Troy Kotsur), is a towering man with an insatiable appetite for sexual relations with his wife, Jaclyn (The West Wing’s Marlee Matlin). She runs the books. He catches the fish with Ruby’s older brother, Leo (Daniel Durant). They are close-knit, even going through Leo’s tinder profile as a family. They heavily rely on Ruby to be their bridge to the hearing world. This puts Ruby in the uncomfortable position of choosing her family or pursuing her dreams. There to help is her teacher, Bernando (How to Be a Latin Lover’s Eugenio Derbez), encouraging her with tough love and a gentle touch.
CODA – the ending explained
Ruby is given personal tutoring sessions from Bernardo to prepare for Berkley’s music program in hopes of landing a scholarship. When performing her song by Joni Mitchell in a closed audition, her family sneaks up onto the balcony to watch her perform. When she catches their gaze, Ruby improves. She begins to sign along powerfully as she sings, bringing tears of joy and beaming pride to her nuclear tribe.
We presumably assume Ruby is awarded her scholarship since she is packed and ready to head across the country with her best friend, Gertie (Amy Forsyth), and the fact she previously noted she could never afford college. She has her stop the car and runs back to give them a big group hug. As she climbs back in the car, she hangs out the window, looking back as her hair flies in her face, and sees her family in-between the trees as they say goodbye. Ruby does the same. Instead of waving, she signs, “goodbye.”
CODA is an acronym that stands for a child of a deaf adult. The importance of this may not be self-evident as children of two deaf parents parallel those children of first-generation immigrants who rely on their children to be their liaison, guide, and interpreters from the deaf to hearing worlds.
Films have always been a reflection of the times we live in, especially today. It’s a world filled with hate that has brought on social change. Immigration and deportation law has been at the forefront in the United States. What writer/director Siam Heder did was parallel modern themes and issues to communicate the cultural trauma of migration through the eyes of the Rossi family not accepted by their community. They are cut off from the rest of the town, befriending only fellow deaf friends and relying on their children to bridge them and the hearing world.
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