Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Songs My Brothers Taught Me ★★★★

This past year has turned me from someone who had no idea who she was, to now a big, big fan of Chloe Zhao. With The Rider still sitting as one of my favorite films of 2018, I had been curious to check out her earlier work.

Her love for the pastoral setting and her ability to use both nature and animal as a means of exploring the complexity of the human expeience are both evident here. There is something about the way she is able to capture emotion on screen using the most humble of performances and constructs that is both special and unique. The raw performances and quiet visuals, such as capturing the beauty of a brief sunset or a momentary glance, curl of the mouth, carries so much weight that it makes me long for more of this type of simplicity in cinema.

Theme wise, the film is equally modest, anchoring itself in the sentiment of the opening scene (which once again features a human-horse relationship), which speaks to the idea of taming a wild creature as a metaphor for the human story it is looking to tell. The main character, a young teenage boy, laments that in taming a wild horse towards being good, "you have to leave some bad, or it will never be able survive when you return it to the wild."

It's this persistant question of our dueling nature that flows through the gentle spirit of its story, and Zhao brings the sentiment back around in the end to its human counterparts in a powerful and meaningful way.

I can't wait to see what she has in store next.

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