middle of nowhere feat

Yet another delightful surprise has dropped in the lap of Oscar this year in Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere. You’ve probably never seen a film like this, I know I never have. DuVernay has crafted vibrant, original, flawed and interesting female characters who are trying to find their own way in life out from underneath the shadow of the men they’ve depended on. This is  a story about a slow moving journey out of a trap. The main character Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi) is torn between two competing forces in her life. It isn’t a choice to pick between two men, though that’s what it seems like in the trailer. It is actually deeper than that — it’s about the choice between looking out for herself and her own future or continuing to try to make a troubled marriage work.  It’s an interesting question because there isn’t an easy answer — it is a struggle, a conflict. Ruby has choices in life but none of them are easy ones.

The magic in DuVernay’s writing and filmmaking is that it feels like you’re driving down a familiar road but every turn, every stop sign leads to something unexpected.  You think Ruby’s mom is going to be the typical black inner-city grandmother — one extreme or another — either the soul-food cooking earth mama or the drug-addicted narcissist. She is neither. She is someone who has lived a life. A long and painful life that has altered her perspective. But the more she tries to talk to her daughters the less they want to hear what she has to say.  She’s complex, not easily pinned down as one cliche or another — she’s a person, a complex human being. Imagine that.

As a beautiful young woman, Ruby has her pick of men. Corinealdi is one of the most exciting things to happen to film in a while — this film should launch her career. If it doesn’t, people aren’t paying enough attention.  The two male supporting characters are really great — David Oyelowo and Omari Hardiwck.  They both seem to represent different paths she could take — and yet she is also faced with an even more challenging one — devotion to the love of her life, following her heart vs. medical school, cashing in on her intelligence. How do you do complete yourself and as individual and still make a marriage work? Even if the men support you in what you’re doing how do you support yourself? How do you change the focus of your life?

To that end, Middle of Nowhere is revolutionary in its storytelling.  It is haunting, unexpected, deeply erotic at times and ultimately the kind of thing that only comes around once in a decade. DuVernay is changing the landscape of filmmaking, as some other filmmakers have done this year — Benh Zeitlin, Lena Dunham, and Sarah Polley. But DuVernay is doing something different.

To watch a scene where three women are trying to communicate with each other, trying to do right by the one little man in their lives, Ruby’s nephew, who depends on them for everything (all of the men are gone) is a reality many of us live with every day and yet is never explored in film. You won’t see a single cliched character in this film and these three women I know.  I know them in life yet I’ve never seen them in film . Why? Because black women in film have to be one or the other — they have to be all good or all bad but never actually fully fleshed out human beings. DuVernay gives us that and does it without wagging her finger at our warped society. She simply tells Ruby’s complex story with vivid imagery, subtle detail and genuine emotion. That Middle of Nowhere was written and directed by a woman is cause to celebrate and lets us see a brighter future not just for female storytellers but American film.

Middle of Nowhere is one of the best films of the year.


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  • Thanks. I’ve got to see this.

  • I hope this doesn’t get neglected at the box office. It may be tough for a film directed by a black woman about a black woman finding an audience. It will surely, at least, open the industry’s eyes a little wider to Ava DuVernay’s talent, but are bigger-budgeted, higher-profile, more commercial projects what we want to see her making, even if they mean that she receives the attention she deserves?

  • Not to belittle the rest of the film, but the husband in prison seems like a cliche to me.

  • Pfft everything’s a cliche.

  • Jake

    I dont see Quvenzhane Wallis and Corinealdi both making it in for Best Actress! Whos better?

  • Ava DuVernay (“Middle of Nowhere”) is a talent that must watched in the future. She’s just not a great black woman screenwriter and director. She’s a terrific screenwriter and director with ‘fresh sneakers’ out of the box stories and viewpoints. As far as both Quvenzhane Wallis and Emayatzy Corinealdi getting nominated for Best Actress! — fat chance. Hello NAACP Image Awards. Quvenzhane Wallis will snag the Oscar nomination. Higher profile film. And rolling with a studio (Fox Searchlight) that knows how to campaign and win.

  • Sid Baris

    I saw this movie at TIFF and thought it was excellent. I did not see it as an African American movie although it is. Five star***** thumbs up. Don’t miss this one

  • Patice Reley

    a belittling conversation about what is a beautiful review and appears to be a beautiful film. i for one look forward to seeing it and am glad to know that something like what sasha describes is in the world. why couldn’t two black actresses be nominated? it;s happened before. as for it being small, look at jacki weaver’s nomination or the woman from central station. there have been known to be dark horses in the best actress category for smaller films. grow up.

  • ^
    this. all of this.

    Thank you, Patice. Hope you come around and speak up more often.

  • but the husband in prison seems like a cliche to me.

    you’ll change your mind when you see the movie.

  • New stills from Sacha Gervasi’s ‘Hitchcock’, with ScarJo as Janet Leigh


  • Jake

    Patice: Its just reality that Wallis and the woman from this movie wont both get nominated. Not only because there both black, but because this movie is really under the radar. Plus I dont think the Oscars wouldnt nominate someone because they are black? They arent that racist are they?

  • alan of montreal

    Looking at what you’ve got listed for Best Actress thus far, it doesn’t seem like anyone is a home run at this point even for a nod, save for Jennifer Lawrence. There don’t seem to be many “women’s pictures” this year like there have been the past few years. So maybe it’s possible, given the right push. But perhaps it has a better shot at an Indie Spirit nod. I’m surprised, though, Sasha, that you don’t have Amy Adams under supporting. She’s gotten very good notices, and AMPAS really seems to like her–she has a great track record with them–so I would think she’d at least be considered a possible nominee in your list. Who knows–maybe they’ll even put her up for best actress in such a weak year?

    Actually, it would be interesting to see what your thoughts are on the Best Actress race thus far, because nobody seems to be talking about it at all. Most of the women on the list are either in foreign (French) films or in small indie films. I don’t think Meryl Streep has a shot–her film hasn’t done well, and I think since they awarded her last year, AMPAS will probably not bother to nominate her this time around and wait for Osage County. Perhaps there’s a chance that Viola Davis and/or Maggie Gyllenhaal might get a nod simply out of habit and because it’s a weak field, even though the film’s gotten less than stellar reviews. If War Witch gets seen by enough voters, perhaps Rachel Mwanza will get a nod, since she took the award in Berlin.

  • Jerry

    Sounds interesting. Thanks for the review and heads up. Will keep an eye open for it.

  • I agree, it’s a belittling conversation. Nevertheless, the last time two black women were nominated for Best Actress was 40 years ago. It’s about fucking time, don’t you think?

  • As an even unlikelier possibility, Rachel Mwanza has been receiving raves for her performance in War Witch. Don’t know if it’ll even be released in the US this year, and there’s no Oscar buzz around it anyway so she doesn’t have a hope, but it’d be nice to see her pick up interest in some circles.

  • ButtaP

    Great film and true to the core. Ava and the actors nailed this complex situation. It is not about race. It’s about life and how the unfortunate can be fortunate if one allows.

  • Marshall

    Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of films I love that I maintain should absolutely be a contender just because of their sheer brilliance. But putting it in the Contender tracker simply from your reaction? Where’s the buzz on this movie? I appreciate you using your platform to advocate for a movie that is lacking in attention, but aren’t you worried about credibility?

  • We have to keep in mind that there aren’t very many Big or even Mid-Level Studio pushes for Best Actress (barely enough to fill the field), unlike the Best Actor race, where the cup runneth over. It’s open season on this category in what has been a challenging year for predicting. Meaning: anything goes.

    One thing that I’ve learned recently is that if sites like AD doesn’t put obscure people like Anne Dowd and films like Nobody Walks into the conversation (as improbable as it may seem she earn a nomination), then the actors and films stand zero chance of getting in. The conversation becomes more generic, obvious, and squeezes out “the little guy.” While it’s fun “to be right,” it’s even better that the field gets expanded and actors and films that wouldn’t normally receive any exposure do get some notice. It doesn’t hurt to try.

    When it comes to the level of intelligence of the mainstream going community, you can lead a horse to the trough, but if you don’t even bother, than there isn’t any chance of her drinking.

  • @Paddy/Ryan

    I’m just saying, when Sasha writes “You won’t see a single cliched character in this film” and then the husband is a prisoner, it’s a cliche.

  • You’re wrong though, Colin. What you’re saying makes no sense.

    There are nearly 1 million Black men in America’s prisons. You’re saying they’re all cliches? Tell that to their families and friends.

    See the movie and you’ll understand how wrong you are.

  • Colin, can you name 4 or 5 of these cliche movies that portray a married couple with the husband in prison?

    I have to go back to Sounder in 1972 before I can think of another black husband in prison. Not exactly an over-used narrative, is it?

  • rufussondheim

    C’mon Ryan, you really need to stop using logic and knowledge to combat ignorance. You take all the fun out of being stupid.

  • I doubt there are many, but Monster’s Ball goes on that short list. Well, sort of.

  • Tammy K. Murphy

    This article makes me want to see the movie…..from description it sounds like a movie women of color should see and could relate too…congrats to ms. ava….she makes me want to tell my own story…which i working on via my book.

  • I didn’t mean it in the sense of it being a movie cliche, more in that the character is derived from a racial stereotype.

  • And since you asked:

    Con Air
    Death Race
    Green Mile
    The Defiant Ones
    Monster’s Ball
    The Hurricane
    Shawshank Redemption

  • “Colin, can you name 4 or 5 of these cliche movies that portray a married couple with the husband in prison?”

    “Con Air
    Death Race
    Green Mile
    The Defiant Ones
    Monster’s Ball
    The Hurricane
    Shawshank Redemption

    Question: How many of the actresses can you name off the top of your head that are part of those marriages?

    Me: One. Which I already named.

    Eight movies over the course of over fifty years? Furthermore, AT LEAST, three of those films are Grade-A crap. (That’s being generous)

    Somebody ready for yoga class? Cuz there be some serious stretching going on.

  • Ryan Adams

    Colin, stop. Just please stop. You’re making it worse. You’re digging yourself in a deeper hole.

    I explained explicitly already. There are over 850,000 Black men in U.S. prisons. By your standards, all their stories are a cliche so filmmakers should never show such a “stereotype.” WTF. Listen to yourself.

    1 out of every 15 Black men in America is in prison. Good luck to you and your unkicked ass telling them their situation is a cliche.

    “More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day.”

    Cliche, in your view? Or tragic fact of life worth addressing.

    Lemme just get this straight. All the black men in prison movies — that’s a cliche, a stereotype. But all the white men in prison movies, that’s not a cliche? That’s not a stereotype? That’s some fascinating rare thing for a white guy to be in prison?

    In other words, by your own example, The Defiant Ones was only half cliche. You’re ok with the intriguing idea of Tony Curtis in prison, but you worry the Sidney Poitier parts are cliche?

    Do you think The Wire is wall-to-wall cliche?

    What’s your solution, dude? In prison movies, be sure all the inmates are white to avoid “stereotypes”?

    Are you seriously going to name 4 great movies as examples of a cliche, movies that fall into that tired old stereotype of black men who break laws? Morgan Freeman in Shawshank is cliche… because he’s black? Tim Robbins, not. Because white murderers are so rare and unstereotypical, right?

    Boyz ‘n’ the Hood, cliche? Meanwhile, Bonnie and Clyde, they’re not cliche because they’re white folk?

    I don’t know what say to you. Bizarre stance you’re clinging to.

  • Let’s not get into race-baiting, Ryan, be above that.

    To me, putting the husband in jail makes the conflict for Ruby easier. Take This Waltz handled the dilemma of choosing between men without making one a prisoner. It feels like a cop-out for the audience to ignore the fact that she is actively considering infidelity.

  • Let’s not get into race-baiting, Ryan, be above that.

    How about let’s be above name-calling and mislabeling? I’m trying to explain to you how very wrong it sounds to say a black husband in jail is a stereotype, a cliche. That’s borderline offensive to me, Colin. You’re well aware what you were saying there. I won’t take part in perpetuating that angle. I tried my best to to quell that gently by encouraging you to please just see the movie before passing judgement. But you insist on pushing it, then I need to push back harder.

    You know I’m not race-baiting so I’ll advise you not to say that again. You should also know that there’s nothing cliche about black men in prison. If you don’t know it, then I encourage once again to see the film before you sling your inapplicable labels and blind misconceptions about it.

    Why didn’t you pop in to tell us that the relationship between Hillary Swank and Sam Rockwell was a cliche stereotype in Conviction? Papillon, Midnight Express, The Great Escape — all stereotypical situations to you? “Oh, a prison! here we go again!”

    No, Colin. Part of the movie is ABOUT a man who’s in prison. What’s wrong with that? It’s a thing that happens. Is The King’s Speech cliche just because all the hundreds of movies about the royal family feature the “stereotype” of one reluctant heir to the throne?

    Check a dictionary. Look up “cliche.” Look up “race-bait.” You’re unclear about the meaning of both terms.

    “It feels like a cop-out for the audience to ignore the fact that she is actively considering infidelity.”

    You really please need to stop saying silliness like this, because you’ll only be more embarrassed when you finally see the movie.

  • I appreciate the fact that we can disagree on a film amicably. And for the record, I did see it.

  • Don’t know what else to say then, Colin. If you saw Middle of Nowhere and think the audience is encouraged to “ignore the fact that she is actively considering infidelity,” then you must have seen a different cut than the movie I saw.

  • rufussondheim

    Brad Davis was so pretty. It’s a shame he had to die.

  • Ryan, don’t get me wrong, the husband’s behavior forced her hand. I completely get that.

  • Let’s not get into details.

    Let’s just agree Middle of Nowhere is not a rom-com where Jennifer Aniston has to decide who to screw — her boorish fiancé or her sensitive co-worker. (neither of whom are in prison, thank god! because that would be so facile, apparently.)

  • I would peg Katherine Heigl into that hole, but that’s just me.

  • ^
    ha! swear to god I almost typed Heigl, but I figured tough-skin Aniston could handle the jab better.

  • That’s hilarious

  • Alper

    my top 5

    Marion Cotillard or Riva
    Helen Hunt
    Mary Elizabeth Winstead
    Maggie Smith

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