Exploring the coming-of-age trope with a fresh perspective, CODA is an instant classic featuring a star-making performance from Emilia Jones.

A young woman finds herself torn between her dreams of singing and her love of family in CODA, a coming-of-age film that is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Director Sian Heder has crafted a crowd-pleasing story about what gives our lives purpose that boasts big laughs and at least one good cry.

Ruby (Emilia Jones) is the only member of her family that can hear. In addition to helping run the family’s fishing business and attending high school, she’s also responsible for translations. She tells people what her parents (Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur) and brother (Daniel Durant) say and shares what the world says in response. It’s a situation that would be a lot for anyone to handle, let alone a high schooler suffering from anxiety and shyness, but Ruby makes the best of it.

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The only escape Ruby has from the chaos of her life is music. She loves to sing and has a deep appreciation for music released half a century before her. After taking a chance on her school’s choir program, Ruby begins to believe in herself, but as new opportunities start to arise, Ruby struggles to understand her path in life. On the one hand, she has talent, but she’s also a lifeline for her entire family, and any decision to prioritize herself comes with a cost she’s unsure any of them can afford.

Keeping her hopes high is her choir teacher, Bernado Villalobos (Eugenio Derbez). His belief in Ruby encourages her to think beyond the immediate future. The chemistry the actors share taps into the universal longing to be seen for who we can become rather than what we are in the present. Eugenio Derbez has long proven his ability to shine in roles of any size, but his turn here will make audiences fall in love with his charm all over again.

CODA draws from the rich history of teen movies about young love, confidence, and the tough decisions we make as each begins to define ourselves as individuals. Ruby is an underdog in every sense of the word, but so is her family. Her parents are trying to make ends meet, and her brother, also part of the family business, is looking for love. Heder’s script makes room for us to see the world through their eyes as much as Ruby’s, and through doing so, she creates a tactile universe that feels as real as ours.

Heder accomplishes something increasingly rare with CODA. Here we have a film that audiences have seen countless times before, yet Heder and her cast execute every element so well that you cannot resist their charm. It is devilishly fun watching a movie excel at the same things that would make your stomach turn in other features, and I’m sure we will be celebrating CODA’s accomplishments for years to come. Not only is this a star-making moment for Emilia Jones, but it’s precisely what the world needs right now. You’ll never want it to end.