‘Middle of Nowhere’ is raw, real and outstanding

Omari Hardwick (left) and Emayatzy Corinealdi are lovers separated by bars in 'Middle of Nowhere'
Omari Hardwick (left) and Emayatzy Corinealdi are lovers separated by bars in ‘Middle of Nowhere’

Middle of Nowhere is a gritty movie about how tough life can be when living in limbo.

In this case, “Ruby” (Corinealdi) enters that state in the film’s opening scene when she’s visiting her husband “Derek” (Hardwick) in prison.  He’s apparently just taken up residence there and she announces that she is dropping out of medical school.  This will enable her to preserve her relationship by visiting every weekend and keeping a home ready and waiting for his release.  He’s in for eight years, but she’s holding onto the fact that he could be out in five with “good behavior”.  He tells her that he doesn’t want her to let go of her dreams, but she won’t be convinced otherwise.

Fast forward four years and Ruby is working hard to achieve her dream of Derek’s return.  She takes extra shifts at the hospital where she works as an RN in order to pay off Derek’s legal bills.  She’s doing everything she can to prepare for his eventual parole hearing.  She endures long bus rides to and from work, while helping her sister “Rosie” (Finley) by taking care of her nephew.

Emayatzy Corinealdi delivers strong performance in 'Middle of Nowhere'
Emayatzy Corinealdi delivers strong performance in ‘Middle of Nowhere’

Then comes the good news that Derek may be released, but that only leads to more problems.  The lawyer who represented Derek at trial suddenly demands her retainer up front before she handles his parole hearing.  There’s a child that Derek fathered before he married Ruby and her mother comes around complaining she hasn’t received child support payments.  Things worsen when Derek is involved in an altercation and ends up in solitary confinement.

While Ruby still loves her husband, she gets involved with the bus driver (Oyelowo) who she sees regularly when visiting the prison. He makes a pass at her during a chance encounter at the beach, which turns into so much more. Derek’s friend and fellow criminal “Rashad” (Curvey) learns of her relationship with the bus driver, and that threatens everything.

DuVernay won the Best Director award at the Sundance Film festival and Cornealdi has been nominated for an IFC Spirit award for her performance.  The win and the nomination are well-deserved.  DuVernay has crafted an outstanding film with real characters facing real problems.  There is a clarity in her on-screen visions seldom seen in someone with her relative level of inexperience in directing features.  This one is a winner.

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