DVD Review - Middle of Nowhere

Omari Hardwick (left) and Emayatzy
Corinealdi (right) in 'Middle of Nowhere'
This film premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Directing Award for writer-director Ava DuVernay. It got a limited theatrical release in October of that year through DuVernay's company AFFRM. It won the John Cassavetes Award. It won a Gotham Award, as well as several other prizes on the independent film circuit, and then it just disappeared. It sat on the shelf for about two years unavailable to the public. Eventually, it aired on BET in August 2014. Because of the success of DuVernay's latest and third feature Selma, which is currently her biggest and most widely released and widely acclaimed work, Lionsgate has decided to make her second feature available on DVD, as of January 13, 2015. In the week leading up to the 87th Oscars, iTunes is renting the film for 99 cents and Blackout for Human Rights is hosting a free screening in Leimert Park where the film is set.

Emayatzy Corinealdi who won the Gotham Award for her role stars as Ruby, a black woman and wife of a black man who has been put into prison on drug charges with a 8-year sentence. She is a loving and dedicated wife who promises to stay loyal and faithful for the entire sentence, even though it means much sacrifice on her part, sacrifice socially, financially and psychologically until she's reduced to a shell of a person who only goes to work at night as a nurse and waits in the daytime for her husband's call or occasional visits to prison to see him.

David Oyelowo co-stars as Brian, the bus driver who takes a liking to Ruby whom he sees everyday as she rides the metro to work. Brian is charming and sweet. He only becomes an option or outlet when the reality of both Ruby and her husband maintaining their relationship is more difficult than certainly Ruby assumes. Oyelowo goes from a sexy, chiseled love interest here to the more bulky, civil rights icon, Martin Luther King, Jr. in DuVernay's Selma, but in both cases he represents a kind of light, one at the end of the tunnel and one as a beacon or guiding light.

Omari Hardwick co-stars as Derek, the incarcerated husband, married to Ruby. Hardwick was in DuVernay's previous feature I Will Follow (2010). He only had one scene in that previous feature, but he knocked it out the park. Here, he gets a half-dozen or so scenes and he continues to impress. Derek sees the forest for the trees and he succumbs to it more easily.

Lorraine Touissant as Ruby's mom and Sharon Lawrence as Ruby's lawyer also impress, but it's Corinealdi whose performance is heartbreaking, hopeful and wholly nuanced. It's one of the most soulful, down-to-earth and beautiful performances of the year of its initial release. It's so simple, as is DuVernay's direction.

The signature shot, which explains visually what the title of this film means, isn't underlined at all. It's so brief that you might miss it. DuVernay is the kind of filmmaker who doesn't need to boldly underline things. Listening to DuVernay on the DVD's commentary, it's obvious in how she allowed her cinematographer to light a scene that she's not into flash or vanity. She's very realistic.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for some language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 41 mins.


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