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HBO's "Hear and Now" is a Wonder to See and Hear

In Hear and Now, Ilene Taylor Brodsky’s loving but unflinching portrait of her deaf parents, we get a very close look – and an equally close listen – at a loving relationship that is about to test itself in a new way.

Both Paul and Sally Taylor were born deaf, and lived their lives without hearing a thing. They met and married as young adults, and have been together ever since, raising their daughter Ilene (who is not hearing-impaired) and surrounding themselves with loved ones, a comfy home, and the sound of silence.

Sally enjoys heavy-metal music while she drives, cranking the volume up high, but only because she can feel the vibrations. Paul, a professor and amateur inventor, has rigged up lights in the house to flicker whenever a phone or doorbell rings.  And when they take nature walks together, they hear nothing, but see everything.

At age 65, they decide to undergo surgery and get cochlear implants, with the possibility of hearing the world, their digs, their grandchildren, music, and everything else for the first time. Hear and Now follows that decision, and their progress, for the next year.

It is not as easy or happy, or even as equal, a process as you might think, and hope. This is where the obvious bravery and tenacity of the filmmakers’ parents ascends to an even higher level. They allow their daughter to film them not only at their best, but at their worst – frustrated by the barrage of new and indistinguishable sounds, the uneven pace of progress, and the simple exhaustion of trying to process a whole new world of auditory input.

Those difficulties, in the end, make the simple triumphs all the more resonant, literally as well as literally. When Sally intentionally takes clunky steps to hear her footsteps crackle in the snow, you feel her joy. And when both of them marvel at the sound of geese, which they’d seen their whole lives but never heard honk, it’s a simple, precious, perfect moment between the two of them that it’s an absolute honor to share.