Middle of Nowhere 12/12/06 2:45
DuVernay's warm, emotional style takes the time to evoke the sadness and confusion of being separated from one's beloved by prison bars. But this central dramatic situation stands for a lot more. Ruby's relationship with her impatient, demanding mother, and her sister, an unwed mom, is tinged with a general sense of disappointment about what life should have been but for bad luck and poor choices. The film's long dialogue scenes take us past the usual exposition to a real sense of being stuck in old habits that no longer work. Ruby is quiet but passionate, desperately wanting a man in her life, but not so much that she will give herself away. The ostensible choice between her husband and the bus driver reveals a more important choice she faces that has nothing to do with romance—to rely on her own inner strength or continue to wait for someone else to make decisions for her.
Middle of Nowhere features fine performances from relatively unknown actors. In addition to the beautiful Corinealdi, there is sensitive work by Omari Hardwick as her husband Derrick; and Lorraine Toussaint is compelling as Ruby's complex and difficult mother, Ruth. DuVernay reveals a bit of her beginner's status by relying on songs for dramatic transition, but it's a remarkably self-assured film nevertheless, with a strong sense of the demands made on people by real conditions, and those people's responses, which are not clear-cut or simple. Also it's refreshing to see such a good film centered on the lives of black women, who don't get to take center stage in movies often enough. In fact, DuVernay's best director win at Sundance was the first for an African American woman.