Summary: Ruby is struggling with loneliness and loyalty with her husband incarcerated for over four years. With him soon to be released, Ruby looks forward to his return but is faced with unexpected twists.
Review: There must be something in the water where Ava DuVernay and her company, AAFRM (African-American Film Releasing Movement), reside. The four films from the groundbreaking film distributing company are a hit with critics and shook up the box office with numbers that indie — especially Black indie films — rarely garner. I Will Follow, Restless City, Kinyarwanda and now Middle of Nowhere, which expands to seven cities today, are a part of the impressive résumé DuVernay and her team have under their belt.
For those who are fans of AAFRM and DuVernay, her latest film is not a reincarnation of anything you’ve seen from her previously. For those who may not be familiar with Ava DuVernay, her latest project is a must-see with its accessible story and poetic visuals. To put it plainly: Middle of Nowhere is intoxicating.
The AAFRM film is a heartbreaking but teachable story about love and the morbid sacrifices we make to find it. Ruby, elegantly portrayed by Emayatzy Corinealdi (who bears a striking resemblance to vintage Toni Braxton), is a woman whose husband is behind bars. For four years, she has dedicated her life for the moment he will be released, which leaves her in the “middle of nowhere.” Love behind bars is no unheard of tale. But similar to AAFRM’s previous films, it is transformed by the smooth ability to tell a relatable story with a raw grace.
Corinealdi as Ruby emotes onscreen, relying on subtlety, which is often the hardest emotion to express. Omari Hardwick, as Derek, the incarcerated husband, once again proves his acting chops go beyond the thug-type roles he is most known for (For Colored Girls, Next Day Air). David Oyelwo (Red Tails, The Paperboy) — who is always stellar — rounds out the cast. But, lest we forget, the underrated Lorraine Toussaint, who is best known for the series Any Day Now, plays Ruby’s mother. Much like Viola Davis before Doubt, Toussaint does not get the recognition she deserves.
Written and directed by DuVernay, the Cali native is not trying to be avant-garde; her goal is to make you feel. Although the director proudly identifies as a Black, woman filmmaker, the movie has no allegiance to race or gender. “I see options in front of me. Roads that could be traveled … but I am still here.” Who cannot relate to that? If you walk out of Middle of Nowhere with no feeling then you are missing some soul.
Middle of Nowhere is playing in select cities and opening today in Chicago, Detroit, Oakland/Berkeley, Seattle, Houston, East Miami and Cherry Hill, New Jersey.