Film and Plot Synopsis
As a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) Ruby is the only hearing person in her deaf family. When the family’s fishing business is threatened, Ruby finds herself torn between pursuing her love of music by wanting to go to Berklee College of Music and her fear of abandoning her parents. (Courtesy of Apple TV+)
‘Coda’ Movie Summary
Ruby is somewhat of a social outcast at school due to her family. She secretly has a crush on a fellow student named Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). When Ruby sees Miles signing up for choir, Ruby does the same due to her love of singing. The choir is overseen by Bernardo “Mr. V” Villalobos (Eugenio Derbez), who expects much from the participants in choir and often tells everyone how poorly they are doing. In the initial choir session, Mr. V orders all the students to sing “Happy Birthday to You” to him. Ruby panics and runs from the class prior to singing. She returns later to Mr. V and explains that she was bullied for talking funny as a child due to growing up in a culturally deaf household. Mr. V allows Ruby back into the choir and informs her that the choir has room for all kinds of voices. Ruby sings for Mr. V who is surprised at how beautiful her voice is.
A few weeks later, Mr. V pairs Ruby with Miles for a duet at the upcoming choir recital. Miles and Ruby prepare separately, and their first rehearsal together goes poorly. Mr. V demands that they practice together. Reluctantly, Ruby invites Miles to practice at her house. However, their practice is interrupted by Ruby’s parents having sex loudly in their room. The next day, Ruby overhears several of her classmates making fun of her by imitating her parents’ intercourse noises. Miles apologizes to her and admits to telling his friend Jay about what happened not realizing that Jay would share it with others. Ruby is angry and cuts off contact, and her practice sessions, with Miles. However, she forgives Miles a short time later, and they begin to develop a friendship with each other.
You know why God made farts smell? So deaf people could enjoy them too. Frank Rossi (Troy Kotsur)
At the same time, Frank and Leo are facing financial pressures from the fishing industry. The fishing industry places new fees and restrictions on all the fishermen, and Frank and Leo struggle to turn a small profit. Frank becomes frustrated and announces at a board meeting that he is going to start his own company to get around the new restrictions and will allow him to sell his fish on his own. The outsider Frank invites the other local fishermen to join him and his family in the venture. Jackie is initially against the idea, but she quickly turns around and helps her husband. Ruby is instrumental to the business as the only person in the family who can talk to people and spread the word.
Meanwhile, Mr. V encourages Ruby to audition for the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Mr. V offers his services for private lessons, but he insists that Ruby dedicate herself to her music. However, the Rossi’s new business continues to demand more and more of Ruby’s time. Mr. V grows increasingly agitated with Ruby’s tardiness and cancelled practiced sessions. He repeatedly lectures her about not caring about her musical gift and wasting his time.
One day, Frank and Leo are fishing with an official fishing observer. The observer is disturbed that Frank and Leo are deaf and that they have no one who is not hearing impaired on their boat with them. The Coast Guard attempt to stop Frank’s boat, but neither he or Leo hear them despite the ship horns and radio calls. The Coast Guard force their way onto the boat. Frank is severely fined and both Frank and Leo’s fishing licenses are revoked. They appeal their case and manage to get their licenses back on the condition that they always have a hearing person on board with them. Frank cannot afford to pay for another deckhand so Ruby announces to the family that she will give up on her hopes for college and will join the crew of her father’s boat fulltime. Ruby’s parents approve of the idea, but Leo objects to his sister’s proposal. Leo insists that they do not need Ruby’s help and that they all need to learn to adapt to the hearing world. Ruby informs Mr. V that she will not participate in the Berklee College audition.
A few days later, Ruby’s family attends her choir recital. Despite their inability to hear, they all notice how their daughter’s singing causes enthusiastic reactions from the audience. After the recital, Frank asks his daughter to sing the song again for him while he feels her vocal cords. The song causes an emotional reaction in Frank. The next day, Frank wakes Ruby up early and the entire family drives Ruby to Boston for her Berklee audition. The family is informed that they cannot go in with Ruby for her audition, but they sneak in through a balcony entrance anyway. Ruby forgets her accompanying music, but Mr. V shows up to play the piano for her. Ruby is nervous at first, but after seeing her family in the balcony, she gains confidence. She signs for her family as she sings so they can understand her.
A few weeks later, Ruby receives her acceptance to Berklee. She enthusiastically shares the information with her family and Mr. V. She meets with Miles shortly afterwards. Miles informs her that he bombed his audition. The two share a kiss and Ruby invites Miles to visit her in Boston. Meanwhile, the new, hearing crewmembers and workers for the Rossi’s business are all learning sign language, which allows them to communicate both with and for the Rossi family. Ruby’s friend Gertie (Amy Forsyth) drives Ruby to Boston for college. Ruby has difficulty leaving and her father speaks for the first time in the film and tells her to go. As she is leaving, Ruby signs “I really love you” to her family as she drives away.