Mary Poppins Returns
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All Critics (22)
| Top Critics (8)
| Fresh (20)
| Rotten (2)
A moseying tour of life on the Lakota reservation, circa right now: the empty beauty of the badlands, the ancient struggle with alcohol, and the persistent push of youth to make good and make sense of a bad old world that somehow keeps hope alive.
The slow-paced film includes all the expected social themes - drinking, poverty, broken families. Where Zhao excels is in the range of emotions she gets from a mostly nonprofessional cast.
An earnest, smartly mounted film about life on a present-day reservation.
Viewers will be torn between admiring its laid-back naturalism and wishing it possessed just a little more oomph.
Because her laissez-faire approach makes little effort to fit the fragmentary scenes into a tidy portrait of reservation life, "Songs My Brothers Taught Me" feels more authentic than if she had chosen to impose a tighter structure.
The performances are undeniably authentic, the cinematography could make Terrence Malick stand to give a slow clap, and sometimes a sensitive mood and evocative milieu are enough to sustain when there's barely a plot.
Zhao, a first time filmmaker, patiently observes these conundrums rather than passing judgment, and her stellar cast of non-professional actors delivers a great ensemble performance.
... shows the potential indie cinema still holds to offer an alternative vision of our country.
Chloé Zhao's directorial debut Songs My Brothers Taught Me is a quiet, sensitive indigenous coming-of-age story set as high school graduation nears on the Pine Ridge Reserve.
In Songs My Brothers Taught Me, Zhao and her team have created an emotionally compelling neo-realist portrait of a family and their community experiencing the stresses and pressures of post-colonial life.
An outsider looking in voyeurism veering offensively close to being more about the filmmaker's fixation on her immigrant alienation - if not a blatant exotic poverty porn aesthetic - than the brutal internal isolation of her subjects absent of causality.
Zhao's film is imperfect, but it's a heartfelt and gorgeous one with a very timely story at its core.
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