‘CODA‘ follows Ruby Rossi, a high school student with a passion for music who also happens to be the youngest member of a deaf family. The film takes a poignant look at the nuances of the family’s everyday life and how things get complicated when Ruby gets the chance to apply to the Berklee College of Music.
The coming-of-age drama presents a heartfelt view that is greater than the sum of its parts, taking audiences from touching moments to truly heartwrenching ones, all in a measured tone. The film’s title is fittingly simple but holds a lot of layers when looked at a little closer. Let’s see what the title of the film ‘CODA’ actually means.
CODA Meaning and Significance
The film ‘CODA’ draws its title from the acronym CODA, which stands for Child of Deaf Adult and refers to a person raised by one or more deaf parents or guardians. A parallel term used for younger individuals is KODA or Kid of Deaf Adult. The title clearly refers to the film’s central character, Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones), who is a CODA herself. As the film progresses, we see the complexities she faces, which are made all the more intriguing because of Ruby’s affinity for music.
The term CODA was coined by Millie Brother, who is a CODA herself and formed the organization of the same name in 1983 as a result of research she conducted as a graduate student. According to Brother, about 90% of the children born to deaf parents can hear, making the CODA community a vast and diverse one. She describes her own life as one lived between Deaf and hearing worlds. The film also largely focuses on elucidating to audiences through Ruby’s eyes what it might be like straddling these two worlds as a youngster.
‘CODA’ attempts to stay true to its title, casting all three of Ruby’s family members with actors who are deaf. Academy Award-winning actor Marlee Matlin, who essays Ruby’s mother Jackie Rossi, seemingly threatened to walk off the project when she was told that the roles of the father and brother would be fulfilled by hearing actors. As a result, Troy Kotsur and Daniel Durant play the roles of the father and son, respectively, bringing a level of authenticity to the film that almost certainly can’t be merely enacted.
And so, the title of the film ‘CODA’ refers to the central character’s status as the child of deaf parents and carries with it the weight of an entire community that straddles the world of the deaf and the hearing. The fact that Ruby has a passion for music and must choose between going to college and staying with her family to be their bridge to the hearing world makes for some intriguing and heartfelt drama.
As a side note, the word “coda” also refers to a piece of music at the end of a larger piece of music and one that is generally different from the original piece’s basic structure. When taken in the context of the movie, the title thus seems to get a dual meaning where ‘CODA’ could possibly, through its musical meaning, also refer to Ruby who is the youngest in the family and different from the other three members.
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