When her husband is sentenced to 8 years in prison, Rudy drops out of med school in order to focus on her husband's well being while he's incarcerated - leading her on a journey of self-discovery in the process.
Middle of Nowhere takes a unique perspective towards a tale of the criminal justice system. An African-American couple is separated when the husband is convicted for holding guns. The authorities say he’ll be out in five years with good time. Though the prisoner will go through many harsh and soul-crushing experience being locked up, it’s a story we’ve seen before. This time around, we follow the devoted wife and her plight of holding a candle until her man returns. What follows is a journey of one woman losing herself between her job, her child and the painful absence of her true love.
Our protagonist is Ruby, a rather strong woman who will do anything for her locked up hubby Brian. She works plenty of shifts at the hospital to keep up enough income to hire an attorney for her husband’s hearing. She does her best with the help of her mother to raise her son as best she can. The night and party life she desires is sacrificed after long shifts where she ends up dead-tired on the couch eating Chinese takeout. She even sticks it out for the two hour bus ride she has to make to the prison for visitations which leave her flustered at the transfers she has to make.
But what’s most engaging about her struggle is the emotional wasteland she occupies with one love removed in her life. She sleeps in bed at night alone dreaming that Brian was right to next to her as he always used to be. She walks by herself at night, harkening back to a time when her partner would be right along side her. The years of going so long with him have made her start to feel phantom pains of someone who used to always be there. There are plenty of forces working against her such as her flustered mother who doesn’t see why its worth all this suffering just to hold out for Brian. The attorney she hires starts bringing up surprise charges that she painfully pleas to reduce so that they can help her out with her situation.
Probably the most excruciating part of the whole ordeal is how much prison changes Brian. He ends up forced into gangs, caught up in scuffles and succumbs to his sexual urges. Brian is only human and so is Ruby. After several attempts by the bus driver to woo her on her many prison visits, she goes dancing and spends the night in his bed. Her physical desire is not rooted in distancing herself from Brian though. She still thinks about him with every waking moments, but can’t stand never being able to feel something. Ruby wants to feel Brian’s touch again and only uses the poor bus driver as a substitute. She doesn’t want to hurt either, but feels so helpless to find any honest means of curing her painful loneliness.
Writer and director Ava DuVernay did an extraordinary amount of research for this film. Spending months in Compton, she examines all the blows of lost love for the many women who see their men taken away for many years. It’s a theme she certainly had an interest in with her other film I Will Follow. Having grown up in LA knowing many women who have gone through the same experience, Ava makes this a very emotionally driving story. We don’t just see the obvious obstacles of her life from long hours at work to the stressful hours of bus rides back and forth. Ava lets us inside Ruby’s head so we can see and feel all the senses she longs for again. Her husband’s breath on her neck, his warm arms wrapped around her, the many nights of talking. It’s very quiet and subtle, but incredibly effective at letting us into this world.
Middle of Nowhere is a somber and contemplative exploration of holding love up to the highest tests in the worst situation. We’ve seen plenty of movies about women who say they’ll wait for their man when he gets out on the other side. This is the cold reality of what it takes to devote one’s self to another with a prison barrier. Coupling this with a number of other films about men going to prison, you see how the whole experience is a struggle for all good people involved. Despite all you do to make a bad situation better, you may have to do just a little bit more. It sounds like a depressing outing, but it’s rather inspirational how romance can stand tall in the mist of all their mistakes two people can make from the divide.
You rated this film: 4
Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Classification is to be confirmed by the British Board of Film Classification