The Exiles

1961, Drama, 1h 20m

38 Reviews 250+ Ratings

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critics consensus

An historic film, The Exiles combines gritty realism and a loosely-spun, improvisational narrative to capture the lives of Native Americans adrift in a run-down Los Angeles neighborhood in the early 1960s. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

In a Native American neighborhood in Los Angeles, Homer (Homer Nish) lives with his pregnant wife, Yvonne (Yvonne Williams), in a crowded apartment. While Homer goes drinking with his friend Tommy (Tom Reynolds), Yvonne is left at a movie by herself. As the men get progressively drunker, Yvonne realizes her husband is not coming home. Meanwhile, Homer and Tommy wander through the nighttime city, looking for fights, playing poker and discussing their problems as Native Americans.

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Critic Reviews for The Exiles

All Critics (38) | Top Critics (17) | Fresh (34) | Rotten (4)

  • As much an impressionistic gallery of urban landscapes as a set of candid portraits, the film joins an ardent sense of place with the subtle flux of inner life.

    July 13, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Kent MacKenzie's forgotten indie basks in the retroactive glow of never having had a theatrical release -- as if that somehow makes it a work of misunderstood genius.

    November 17, 2011 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • A fascinating hybrid of art and life, The Exiles may not hew entirely faithfully to literal truth but nonetheless conveys a form of artistic honesty that is inescapable. It's a mesmerizing marriage of poetry and prose.

    September 24, 2011 | Full Review…
  • A ghostly and startling tale of Native Americans in Los Angeles -- a fusion of documentary and fiction -- in the late '50s. Never previously released, it's a revelation.

    September 7, 2011 | Rating: A- | Full Review…
  • The Exiles ... presents one boozy night in the lives of Homer, Cliff, Tommy and Yvonne, from a convertible joy ride through the Third Street Tunnel, to an early-morning powwow.

    November 20, 2008 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Kent Mackenzie's magnificent, long-undistributed, unclassifiable first feature, The Exiles, stands as a rare consideration of the inner and outer lives of American Indians in a big American city.

    October 18, 2008 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • As much an impressionistic gallery of urban landscapes as a set of candid portraits, the film joins an ardent sense of place with the subtle flux of inner life.

    July 13, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Kent MacKenzie's forgotten indie basks in the retroactive glow of never having had a theatrical release -- as if that somehow makes it a work of misunderstood genius.

    November 17, 2011 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • A fascinating hybrid of art and life, The Exiles may not hew entirely faithfully to literal truth but nonetheless conveys a form of artistic honesty that is inescapable. It's a mesmerizing marriage of poetry and prose.

    September 24, 2011 | Full Review…
  • A ghostly and startling tale of Native Americans in Los Angeles -- a fusion of documentary and fiction -- in the late '50s. Never previously released, it's a revelation.

    September 7, 2011 | Rating: A- | Full Review…
  • ... there is also something singular and specific about these people and the culture they have created within the city: [Kent] Mackenzie's portrait may be fiction but this world is very real.

    May 4, 2017 | Full Review…
  • The exiles of the title mean the Indians-exiled from their land and with no connection to the white-run city around them. The title also means us: anyone who has ever been trapped in a late-night city, caught by the neon's glare like a moth.

    June 20, 2016 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Exiles

  • Jun 15, 2012
    it is a time capsule of los angeles and a moving portrait of young urban indians in the late 1950s. featuring untrained actors who are startlingly natural and beautiful b/w photography of an LA that has changed beyond recognition, the film follows young men on a friday night of drinking from barhopping to their after party high above the city, where they drum and dance to recall their faraway homes. a remarkable film
    Stella D Super Reviewer
  • Apr 04, 2012
    I don't know how to react to this film. Am I supposed to empathize with these lazy, sluggish Indian men? Aimless, callous, unemployed spongers who do nothing but drink, smoke, flirt, fight and play cards? It's as if the script aims to reinforce negative stereotypes. "The Exiles" has virtually no dramatic shape. The men do nothing useful, while the women work and quietly endure their unhappiness. The story spans about a day, and nothing transformative occurs. And most of the dialogue and ambient noise is awkwardly looped in post-production -- this is alienating. In particular, the casual chatter in bars and cafes is painfully stiff. The filmmakers deserve credit for making a worthwhile sociological statement on a non-existent budget but, beyond that, there's little to recommend "The Exiles" beyond some interesting glimpses of early-'60s Los Angeles.
    Eric B Super Reviewer
  • Apr 04, 2012
    [font=Century Gothic]At its best when photographing the exteriors of a lost city, "The Exiles" is an ethnographic docudrama about a trio of American Indians(Yvonne Williams, Homer Nish & Tom Reynolds) over a twelve hour period in Los Angeles. The men hang out, play poker, and get drunk. For them, they have lost confidence in the future, being twice removed from their traditional lives. Yvonne who is pregnant is lonely as she goes to the movies while the men make the rounds before spending the night at a friend's place. For herself, any hope for the future she reserves for her unborn child for whom she is staying in the city to give him a better chance at leading a rewarding life.[/font]
    Walter M Super Reviewer

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