Black Cinema at Its Most Subtle and Simple

Ava DuVernay avoids melodrama in Middle of Nowhere, ushering in a new type of popular black film.

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As I sat in the theater, I kept thinking of how many Rubys there are -- how many women who go about their lives quietly, taking on huge burdens and asking for little more than equal passion from the people they're fighting for. And how those women are depicted in films from American Violet to Precious as somehow born into the holes they have to climb out of.

But in this muted film about love and liability, DuVernay tells Ruby's recognizable story without any of the tired tropes about black women, single mothers or dreams deferred. DuVernay gives the audience no straight lines -- only poetic glimpses of what life could be if only.

It's almost revolutionary that Ruby's choices are just that: choices. Bad decisions followed by desperate decisions followed, hopefully, by a few good ones. That's what lends the film its unobtrusive ingenuity, this idea that regular ol' people cause themselves regular ol' drama -- no matter their race. There are no histrionics -- just the story of what happens when your life goes off the rails, and how to get it back.

Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter. 

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