Middle of Nowhere Reviews
Emayatzy Corinealdi, the receiver of that Breakthrough Actor nomination, plays Ruby here, a bright medical student who must put her dreams on indefinite hold when the news hits her that her husband will be incarcerated. It‚(TM)s a wonderful film as we see her drop everything to live this new life, committed to a relationship that will have to endure a forced separation for eight years, with the shame that comes with it.
Eventually stuff will happen that will send Ruby through a process of self-discovery that that‚(TM)s amazing to watch. It‚(TM)s a slow-boiling kind of film, that much is true, but it will quietly and steadily really get to your soul as it touches on this emotionally complex side of African American life that you don‚(TM)t see in movies all that often. I loved this film because of the people it presented, because of how moving their plight, how easy to recognize their emotions, how haunting a character-driven film it is and how accomplished a director Ms. DuVernay establishes herself to be here.
Maybe you already knew Ms. DuVernay as a fine director, after all her feature debut from last year, I Will Follow, was championed by Roger Ebert which is always a good indication, but maybe like me this is your first exposure to her work. Like I said, though, for many this will be neither their first or their second exposure, for many it will take longer to find out about this film or I Will Follow(which I plan to watch sometime this week) and it‚(TM)s just unfair. These films, the kind that pose a very specific reality and manage to transcend that to speak a universally human truth, are the kind that stay with you and shouldn‚(TM)t be missed.
Because the story really is rather simple, it touches on loneliness and loyalty to your significant other, things anyone can relate to, but what sets Middle of Nowhere apart from the rest of the pack is that it‚(TM)s no so much about the story as it is about the storytelling. In the way Ms. DuVernay decides to show us this story it feels artful and in the way she relies on her actors more than she does on her own screenplay it shows an unwavering sense of confidence, how she uses their faces to really reveal the emotional depths this film so wonderfully explores.
That will be brilliantly evident when you see how amazing Ms. Corinealdi is, when you see how she portrays these emotions in scenes that don‚(TM)t seem to be acted out at all, that don‚(TM)t seem to be following a script but rather just seem to be happening right then and there inside of her. The film is pretty much all about what Ruby is feeling deep inside of her and you need a tremendously gifted performer to bring all of that to the forefront for us as an audience to understand and relate, and Ms. Corinealdi achieves that and then some.
Plus Ruby‚(TM)s just a damn great character, and props to Ms. DuVernay for creating her. I mean, think about it, it‚(TM)s not often at all that we get a film that‚(TM)s centered on the life of an African American woman, and when we do it‚(TM)s either a ridiculously comedy or an unbearable melodrama; that we can get a film nowadays in which we just see this woman being, just thinking and feeling more than actually talking, is a rare event that we should really treasure.
You can say so much about Ruby‚(TM)s decision to put her life on hold and dedicate herself to her imprisoned husband, you can say it‚(TM)s awfully loyal or, like Ruby‚(TM)s mother, you can call it dumb because, after all, he was sent to prison for something. Ruby must take these horribly long trips to visit her husband which really brings forth a larger sense of how lonely she is and, obviously, means that she can‚(TM)t do much of anything else with her life. Which is why it throws her for such an internal loop when she begins something with David, the kind bus driver played by David Oyelowo.
I know it‚(TM)ll be tough for people to see this film. Black audiences, for the most part, only go to see films made by their community when they‚(TM)re about rappers or gangsters or Tyler Perry; white audiences, for their part, won‚(TM)t be rushing to see such an introspective little indie made with an all-black cast. It‚(TM)s a tough sell, not all films transcend their limitations like Precious, and I‚(TM)m no one to pass judgement as to why it is or how to fix it. I am, however, a lover of films, and as one I urge you watch this one.
Not because this will be about something big or anything like that, though. No,Middle of Nowhere doesn‚(TM)t tackle any of the big social issues Ruby may be experiencing, it‚(TM)s not about racism or an indictment on the justice system or anything like that at all. You should really seek out this film for its artistic merit alone, for the fact that it has the courage to really get into some complicated emotions and doing it on its own terms, with a narrative that may take a while to gather any kind of momentum but that really pays off in the end. This is an unmissable film from a tremendously gifted director and a star-making performance, what more do you need?
"Middle of Nowhere" is a well-acted, modest and understated movie. So much so, that even the grandstanding comes off as subtle. As the movie drops pieces of information throughout, some may find Ruby more than a little naive when in fact she had been dropped into an unfamiliar world where so many women have to regularly endure the emotional and economic hardships that she now lives with. In any case, how could you not like a character who likes foreign films?(In this case, "Ali: Fear Eats the Soul.") And, yes, people do ride the bus in Los Angeles.
The cinematography is really great, the soundtrack is ethereal and fantastic.
My only complaint was that some of the director's choices for lingering shots dragged a bit too long, and put the movie at risk for coming across as pretentious. Still it wasn't enough to take away from the impact Ruby's story had on me. It's a story that needs to be told, and heard.
The story is told through the black box of Ruby‚(TM)s experience. The ambiguity of the film vividly expresses the sense that Ruby sees through a glass darkly. Outside of the visitor‚(TM)s room and the parole hearing office, we never see inside of the prison ‚" we have no idea how her husband is behaving in prison ‚" we just have to sort through the contradictory evidence we hear from her husband and the prison staff.
The film is told using an extensive number of dream sequences. We can‚(TM)t tell whether these are memories Ruby is recalling, or hopes of a better future which she cherishes. Although confronted by factors outside of her control ‚" her husband‚(TM)s choices, the criminal justice system, the lack of support from her family and friends, the unsolicited attention of her bus driver, the abandonment of her case by an attorney ‚" Ruby is a strong woman. She lets go of the things that she can‚(TM)t change, and takes positive steps to address the things that she can.
The movie takes place in between the forgotten and the foreseen, that which is long lost and that which is long awaited. In a powerful scene toward the end of the movie, Ruby reflects that she is in a middle place ‚" she has expectations of what should be, shame for what is, and dreams about what could be. The movie ends ambiguously, without us knowing whether her husband turned around, or whether or not she waited for him.
The film did an excellent job of portraying the hope and despair of a person caught up in forces beyond their control. We live our lives so much of the time between our memories and our hopes, amidst disappointments, often misunderstood by family and friends. Ultimately, it is our faith ‚" our hopes and dreams projected onto the reality we are experiencing, which will guide our choices.