'Hear and Now'


Filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky (an Emmy winner for "The Rural Studio," a portrait of architect Samuel Mockbee) turns her camera close to home for her first feature-length film by documenting her parents' extraordinary journey: At age 65, they decided to have cochlear implant surgery after a lifetime of living in a nonhearing world. This first-rate film succeeds and pleases in many ways: as an incredible medical journey, as a tale of great courage and as a simple yet profound love story.

HBO's "Hear and Now," which won the Audience Award at last year's Sundance Film Festival, recounts Brodsky's memoir of sorts, a tale of her parents, Paul and Sally Taylor, as they embark on what could be a terrifying —and, at the very least, disappointing — journey into a new world. The Taylors' lives already are satisfying and full. Still, they want the chance to hear the world. The success of their surgery is left up to the viewer in the end: Is the journey into a strange new hearing world worth it?

The subject is controversial, raising questions about the psychological and even moral issue of the deaf receiving and coping with cochlear implants. Does living in a hearing world make a life more meaningful? What emotional risks come with suddenly changing a person's experience of that world? The debate about the implants has taken on greater meaning in recent times.

Brodsky voices a simple yet haunting narrative to accompany her parents' experience. She seems to see as much poetry in the world as they do. Her camera (along with co-cinematographer Crofton Diack) is equally lyrical, catching the beauty of the natural world her parents live in.

"Hear and Now" resounds with a profound impact and carries with it far-reaching psychological and even political implications. (partialdiff)