Middle of Nowhere: A Great New Film in Weirdly Limited Release
For now, the movie Middle of Nowhere in Seattle is scheduled to play only at AMC Southcenter. This is not cool because this is one of the best movies this year. Seriously. So let’s start this out by saying that you need to find a way to get yourself to Southcenter this week.
Middle of Nowhere is the story of Ruby, a whipsmart, self-conscious, and kind-but-no-bullshit woman on her way to becoming a doctor when her husband goes to prison. The movie unfolds sneakily and without the slightest hurry but is totally gripping—it’s a feat of construction by the director/writer Ava DuVernay. More on her in a sec.
This is a character movie, a literature of a movie. Each character—Ruby, her husband Derek, her sister, her mother, her new man—is complicated and teased out slowly. It’s hard to imagine getting closer to film characters than this. But the action is also pretty fascinating. For most of the movie, we don’t know Derek’s crime or what their life was like before they entered this nowhere zone—but then we do, and it’s sort of shocking, and revelatory, and yet completely believable, almost inevitable given all that we know so far. Ruby wants to stay with Derek. She’s determined to stay with him. But as the years go by, she ends up having to face who he really is, and who she is, has been, and might still be.
The actors require shout-outs; they’re universally great: Emayatzy Corinealdi as Ruby (who’s rich with a self-assuredness that will make you envious), Omari Hardwick as Derek, David Oyelowo (an actor who made a terrific impression despite George Lucas’s awful writing in Red Tails) as the new guy, the eminent Lorraine Toussaint as the mother, and Edwina Findley as the sister (who gets some of the film’s most touching lines, about why we want one person to love us above everybody else).
But the movie’s real star is DuVernay, an emerging sensation. She’s 40 years old, has made one documentary and one feature film prior to this (2008’s This Is the Life and 2011’s I Will Follow), won this year’s Sundance Best Director Award for Middle of Nowhere (becoming the first African American female director to do so), and is also the founder of a national black indie film collective that works to distribute and market movies by black directors called the African American Film Festival Releasing Movement, or AFFRM. DuVernay is effective behind the scenes in addition to behind the camera and at the keyboard. She’s a triple threat, and you should probably just get in the habit of watching anything that she makes.