Middle Of Nowhere


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Middle Of Nowhere
"Everything that is wrong with the contemporary US indie movie is here."

Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi) is looking at eight years - five with good behaviour. But she hasn't committed any crime. Her husband, Derek, has. As a loyal wife, she is determined to see him through it as best she can. She'll visit the prison every day. She'll fit the rest of her life around that, giving up on her ambition to go to med school, working long shifts late into the night to pay for his legal fees. One day, he'll be released, and they can go on with their lives.

Stories like this exist all aound us in the real world, people carrying invisible burdens, waiting, powerless to change their fate yet determined to meet it head on. It's potentially potent stuff in the cinema, which makes it all the more disappointing that this is such a damp squib of a film. That first half hour where nothing much happens at all needs to establish character, to build an atmosphere of oppession and unspoken ension. It's very good at conveying boredom, but for all the wrong reasons.

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Some observations are well made. From the moment he entered the justice system - and perhaps for some time beforehand - Derek's life has been taking him in a different direction from his wife. Omari Hardwick, by far the best actor in the film, maes the most of his limited screentime and effectively plays a complex man committed to the same dream yet ever further away from it. He's neither a monster nor a victim. His humanity and the realism of the marriage are the film's strogest points, hinting at what it might have been.

As the troubled heroine, Corinealdi is clearly trying hard, but she labours with a weak script that never takes a challenging direction when an obvious one will do. The dialogue could have come from an insomniac soap opera scribe and every key scene is signposted well in advance. It's a shame because there are interesting ideas here. The publicity for the film presents it as the tale of a woman torn between two lovers, but it fact the fresh romance that comes Ruby's way is tangential to he main thrust of the story, a catalyst for changes already developing within her. More interesting are the relationships she has with her mother and sister (and theirs with one another). Both are single parents. There is no female character in the film who hasn't found herself alone. Whilst masculine values attract a by-now-familiar critique, there are more pertinent questions asked about the women who put up with a world that works this way.

Despite the potential of these underlying themes, Middle Of Nowhere finds itself firmly in TV-movie territory - flat, uninspired and testing the patence of its audience. Everything that is wrong with the contemporary US indie movie is here, from the stubbornly drab cinematography to the tediously sighing soundtrack. This may well explain its popularity at Sundance but it's no reason to put yourself through it as a viewer. It's like watching particularly worthy paint drying.

Reviewed on: 24 Dec 2012
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Middle Of Nowhere packshot
A devoted wife finds her life is on hold whilst her husband is in prison.
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Sundance 2012

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