'CODA' Is the Sundance Movie People Will Be Discussing All Year

Apple paid $25 million for the sob-inducing family dramedy.

Sundance Film Festival
Sundance Film Festival
Sundance Film Festival

I don’t want to actually describe the moment in the Sundance Film Festival opening night selection CODA that made me start to heave cathartic sobs because that would be a spoiler, but it’s a doozy. In that one instance, writer-director Sian Heder uses a cinematic technique to take the audience inside the world of her characters during a climatic school concert. From there through the end of her film, I couldn’t stop sobbing.

Those tears are likely one of the reasons CODA has emerged as the most discussed film of this year’s virtual festival. IThe movie, a remake of the 2014 French comedy-drama La Famille Bélier, sold to Apple TV+ for $25 million, a sum that beats last year’s record sale of Palm Springs to Hulu and Neon. It has earned rave reviews and is already the source of some critical backlash. The title CODA stands for Child of Deaf Adults, a label that belongs to protagonist Ruby Rossi, played by Emilia Jones. Ruby is the only hearing member of her coastal-Massachusetts-based family, and has acted for most of her life as their interpreter, at home, in public, and on the fishing boat staffed by her father Frank (Troy Kotsur) and brother Leo (Daniel Durant). The Rossis are an irreverent, loving bunch. Frank and Ruby’s mother Jackie (Marlee Matlin) are still horny for one another after all these years, much to Ruby’s embarrassment.

At school, Ruby has been an outcast, teased for how she spoke as a child or for smelling like fish when coming straight from working on the boat. But she loves to sing and signs up for choir where the music teacher Bernardo (Eugenio Derbez) finds she has a gorgeous voice and pushes her to audition for Berklee College of Music. This coincides with a business crisis for her family, to whom her newfound passion is foreign. Jackie is almost insulted that Ruby would choose to pursue something that her mother cannot experience, while worrying at the same time that Ruby could very well be an untalented musician and she would never know the difference.CODA is a heartwarming, quirky family dramedy of the sort commonly screened at the Sundance Film Festival, but that’s not a knock on it. Heder’s screenplay, while aiming for big bursts of emotion, takes care to tie its sweetest moments to honest character moments. There’s a fear of the unknown in Jackie’s criticism of Ruby’s singing; it’s not just that her daughter is skipping out on family responsibilities, though that does play a part.

Heder is aided by her phenomenal cast, including Jones (one of the stars of Netflix’s Locke & Key) and Oscar-winner Matlin. Derbez, one of Mexico’s biggest comedy stars, deftly avoids falling into the cliché of the tough-but-tender mentor, while the real revelation is Kotsur, who plays Frank as bawdy, hilarious, and proud. Few roles have been made available for deaf actors that allow this kind of range.

CODA is the kind of movie that you can imagine getting a standing ovation at Sundance, if this were a year where people were allowed to gather in a stuffy Park City auditorium. But its unabashed sentimentality is definitely not for everyone, and naysayers are already coming out of the woodwork to deride the film as being overly saccharine.

For me, all the tears were earned. I’ll admit: Despite having been watching movies nearly nonstop during this pandemic, it’s been a while since one hit me like this, and I felt relieved to be depleting a box of tissues as I watched. CODA is a feel-good story, yes, but a lot of people are craving cathartic entertainment right now. Given that we still don’t know when we’ll be going back to theaters, it makes sense that streaming services, like Apple, are looking to beef up their slates with movies that are going to inspire cheers, whether virtual or in person.

Still, it’s hard not to see that $25 million price tag as something of a curse for a low-key film like CODA. Right now it’s unclear how Apple is planning to release it, but now a surprise hit has an insurmountable amount of expectations attached.Need help finding something to watch? Sign up here for our weekly Streamail newsletter to get streaming recommendations delivered straight to your inbox.

Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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