There are many films on my “To Watch” list that hit on heavy issues, and I know they are going to be a difficult watch. There are some movies that are so heavy that I only ever watch them once, even if I enjoyed it. Middle Of Nowhere is a very personal film that gets under the viewer’s skin, but it is not so painful as it is reflective. Written and directed by Ava DuVernay, Middle of Nowhere was released in 2012 and won the Directing Award for U.S. Dramatic Film at the Sundance Film Festival.
The film follows the story of a nurse named Ruby. Her husband, Derek, is sentenced to eight years in prison. She decides to drop out of med school while he is incarcerated, as she would not have the time to receive his calls or visit him. She is hopeful, however, because his crime was nonviolent and he can get out in five years with good time.
The film then cuts forward to four years later, and he is up for parole. That’s great news for Ruby, who has been paying his ex for child support and working night shifts to make ends meet, but still avoiding day shifts so she can receive his calls. She gets a loan from her disapproving mother, Ruby, so she can pay for Derek’s lawyer to represent him at his parole hearing. He needs it as he was recently involved in an altercation and is facing additional charges of assault. Ruby is extremely optimistic about his chances, however. She believes he has been studying and keeping his head down, and considering prison overpopulation, he is a good candidate for parole. Right?
Well, not so much. At the parole hearing she finds out that he does not have such a shining record after all, and he cheated on her with a security guard. Rightfully, Ruby is extremely hurt. She refuses to take his calls and enters a relationship with a bus driver named Brian.
Middle of Nowhere is what I would call a quiet drama. It is very much a slice of life film, and I think DuVernay meant it to be. She wrote the screenplay after talking to many women who had partners in jail, and what Ruby goes through is a reality for many American women. Even if you do not have a loved one in prison, Ruby is easy to relate to. Most people feel at some point in their lives that they are stuck, unable to move on, and unable to live up to expectations. I especially loved her interactions with her mother, Ruth. Ruth knows Ruby is miserable and failing to achieve her dreams, and tells her so. But being told she is a disappointment isn’t what Ruby needs to hear. When you’re down, it doesn’t really help for people to harp on you for being down.
I was surprised to learn that Emayatzy Corinealdi (Ruby) hasn’t gotten a whole lot of roles since Middle Of Nowhere was released. She did an absolutely fantastic job, and it doesn’t hurt that she is gorgeous to boot. David Oyelowo also did a great job as Brian and luckily his career has taken off since, notably working with DuVernay again in Selma as Martin Luther King Jr and I’m looking forward to A United Kingdom. This was my first DuVernay film and I am excited now to check out more of her work.