Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Ending Of CODA Explained

Sian Heder's "CODA" is a movie that will warm your heart and stick with you long after you've watched it, and it's no wonder that the film is in the running for Best Picture at the Oscars this year. The film follows the story of Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones), a CODA (Child Of Deaf Adults), the only hearing member of a deaf family who dreams of one day becoming a singer. Throughout the story, Ruby struggles with her desire to leave home and follow her dreams, because to do so would mean leaving her family to fend for themselves in a community that doesn't understand or accept them.

Much of "CODA" plays out as you would expect a typical coming-of-age story to play out, and perhaps that simplicity is part of what makes the film so charming. What you see is what you get, but thanks to some incredible performances and stellar directing from Heder, it's a film that will keep you interested from start to finish, a​​nd is sure to leave you with a smile on your face in the end.

Ruby finally finds a balance between her family and her dream

At the start of the film, Ruby's family is firmly opposed to her dream of becoming a singer, partially because they can't even be sure if she's any good at singing, and partially because they want her to stick around and help the family fishing business. The entire film is really centered around these two opposing sides of Ruby's life: Will she follow her heart and keep singing? Or will she stay here, and spend the rest of her life helping her family, knowing she will be unhappy the whole time?

The climax of the film comes when Ruby is auditioning to get into Berklee. Her parents have finally turned around and decided to support her, and they sneak into the upper balcony of the audition hall to watch her perform. Ruby falters at the start of her audition, but after seeing her family smiling down at her, she gains a new sense of confidence and delivers an absolutely incredible performance. As she sings, Ruby signs along with the song so that her family can understand her.

Ruby's use of sign language during the song represents how she has finally achieved balance between her love of singing and her family, as it is the first time in the whole film that they are fully able to appreciate her talent. It's a remarkably touching moment that further reinforces the film's themes of acceptance, love, and family.

The Rossi family starts to feel at home in Gloucester

It's worth noting that during her audition, Ruby sings the song "Both Sides now" by Joni Mitchell, further emphasizing how she has finally bridged the gap between her life as a singer and her life within her family. As she sings, the scene begins to shift into a sort of montage while the song continues to play in the background. Alongside scenes of the family fishing, we're also given a few scenes of Ruby teaching her boyfriend Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) sign language. There's also a scene where Ruby's mother Julia (Marlee Matlin) is teaching sign language and laughing with a few hearing women on the docks.

These few scenes are brief but incredibly important, as it's clear throughout the movie that the Rossi family doesn't truly believe themselves to be part of the Gloucester community. There's a very memorable scene early on in the film where Ruby blatantly calls out her mother for "not having any hearing friends," and from what we see in this montage it seems like that is changing. For the first time, the family is able to communicate with members of the community without Ruby's help, and these brief scenes show that the people of Gloucester are finally starting to accept the Rossis for who they are.

Ruby is accepted into Berklee, and says goodbye to her family

As Ruby's song (and the montage) begin to die down, we watch as the entire Rossi family anxiously waits on a computer to see whether or not Ruby made it into Berklee. As the song wraps up, we cut to a shot of Ruby running up to her music teacher Mr. V (Eugenio Derbez) and hugging him, and it's revealed that she was indeed accepted.

We get a brief scene where Ruby says goodbye to Miles at the spot where they first kissed, before cutting to the Rossi's front lawn on the day Ruby is set to leave for college. She says goodbye to her family and drives off, but stops the car abruptly to run back for one last hug. The entire movie is really about family after all, and this final group hug is just driving that point home even more. As they break apart, Ruby's father Frank (Troy Kotsur) holds her face and tells her: "go!"  

It's the only time he speaks in the whole movie, and it's enough to make both him and Ruby tear up as they hug one more time. As she drives off, Ruby signs "I really love you" out of her window, before turning the corner and starting the next chapter of her life. All told, it's a heartwarming ending that leaves you thinking about the importance of family, and emphasizes how difficult it is to leave home and start a life somewhere new.