Middle of Nowhere ★★★½

Ava Duvernay is about to have a big winter. So I thought I'd watch one of her earlier works. Her confidence and perspective as a director is not fully on display here, but the makings of a great director are present. Duvernay's strongest talent is creating full, beautiful, black characters. There's a small moment in the film when the protagonist, Ruby, is getting ready for bed. She wraps her hair, growing frustrated and going to sleep without her head scarf. I can't say for sure, but I imagine for many non-black audiences of this film, this was the first time they had to contend with the thought that black women wrap their hair before going to bed. The inner or personal lives of black women aren't often portrayed on screen with such intimacy. Or if they are, they're in service of some other character's story.

Duvernay portrays these small slices of lives we don't usually see, with ease. Wrapping them into grander stories about the impact of incarceration on black families. Or about the struggle for civil rights. Or whatever other stories compel her in the future. Along the way, I'm thankful that we'll get to see more of the world through the perspective of full, beautiful, black characters. Especially fully realized black women characters.