‘Middle of Nowhere’ [Review]

The story of a woman crossroad…

By Desha Winborne


USA Theatrical Release Date: October 12th 2012 (Limited)

Genre: Drama | Total Running Time ‎1hr 39min | Color, English

Starring: Emayatzy Corinealdi, Omari Hardwick, David Oyelowo, Lorraine Toussaint

Director: Ava Duvernay 

Though fans may remember Emayatzy Corinealdi from TV Movie  Gunhill, a brief stint on the Young and the Restless and several Indie Shorts, the actress makes her full feature debut in Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere.  Corinealdi is Ruby, a devoted wife whose love is tested when her husband is sentenced to 8 years in prison.  His incarceration and her own sense of loyalty thrust her into the chaotic often-disheartening world of the criminal justice system.  Prison visits, courtroom drama and legal proceedings occupy most of her free time.  The crass world of the prison system is a far cry from her dreams of medical school; but necessary as she fights to restore her life.  As the burden of loneliness takes its toll and she succumbs to a kind stranger’s advances; Ruby finds herself in a middle place unsure of her next move.  In her uncertainty she ponders the point of it all; is it nobler to live her life trying to save her husband or to find the strength to move on and save herself?

The movie begins four years into her husband’s sentence, as Ruby finds herself at a crossroads; one way leading to the life she has and the other in a scary new direction closer to the life she wants. In this award winning sophomore effort by the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement’s (AFFRM) Ava Duvernay, we are immersed in a story that is familiar but to date, rarely told.  Film libraries are filled with violent narratives following the accused. Whether to their doom or their salvation, Hollywood has always favored the anti-hero.  Often films involving prisoners or the justice system follow their journey to its triumphant or sorrowful end, giving little or no insight into the world they leave behind.  In a sharp contrast to Ruby’s exhausting efforts to free her husband, the film is less a chronicle of his journey and more a tome to her strength and conviction.   We follow Ruby home from her visits; we sit with her on the bus watching as the joy is drained from her face.  Surrounded by people in similar circumstances and yet she is alone.   We see her at work trying desperately to lose herself in her position only to find herself ever haunted by the ghost of her marriage.

Emayatzy’s lovely countenance undergoes the full range of emotion.  Her eyes dance in joy only to succumb to tears of anguish.  No one could ask for a better debut as she carries this film on her able shoulders.  Despite the familiarity of the surrounding players it is Ms. Corinealdi’s image portrayed in every scene; it is after all her story.  This film is not just a glossy tome to the strength of love it is an ode one woman’s fight to save her own life, a life which drifts further away from her grasp with the passing of each day.  Over 1 million people are incarcerated each year; the bulk of this sum is either African American or Latino.  The convicted are almost always afforded a moment in the spotlight to tell their story. Their exploits are heralded in music, television series, movies and on the news; their lives become the subject of annual reports and prime time specials.  What happens to the spouses and children they leave behind? Who tells the story of the families fighting valiantly for their freedom?  With every prison sentence a family is broken apart.  Whether briefly or for an extended period of time the fracture is often irreparable.   This film gives a voice to those left behind by the loss of a loved one to the justice system.  Theirs is a voice that cries in agony, seeking refuge from a self-imposed prison, created by love and shaken by dishonor. Their stories are familiar to us all.  Middle of Nowhere tells that story honestly and with the respect and honor it deserves.

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Copyright © 2012 by CINEMATIQ Magazine/ BROWN-ROSS Publishing a -owned subsidiary company of Our Stories Productions, LLC. Email for permission to republish this article.


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