Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Songs My Brothers Taught Me ★★★★

Director Chloé Zhao really understands how to capture the intimate connections between people. The harshness and intent of an ill word said in anger is more than just words on a page but a tangible separation where we understand these distances hurt. Further displaying a keen discernment for letting the moment linger, allowing us to realize the depth of heartache consumed by the Native American people.

Her narrative style flourishes with subtleties unique to the brewing emotions. Such as her camera’s willingness to wonder in and out of the scene, much like the ebb and flow of it’s simmering conflict. Carefully she challenges our perception of life on the Pine Ridge Reservation. An unconscious test of our limited comprehension with the culture living under our very noses. A rich history and heritage we’ve shamefully forgotten and replaced with the brokenness and sorrow that hangs over it now.

The dialogue is often raw and unfiltered of any ‘best take’. Offering a poignant reflection of the generational curses passed down among them. Severe alcoholism renders the community in constant failing health and poverty. With a lifestyle of disloyal sexual promiscuity that enslaves the women and leaves the children abandoned. All of it leads to splintered family settings and an alarming rate of suicide as the answer.

As I pondered what I had witnessed I couldn’t help but think about the ultimate defeat for a parent. This idea that leaving our children without the ability to believe they can overcome life’s greatest challenges. To know they were made with immeasurable purpose. And that their value doesn’t diminish while stumbling over the failures that are inevitable. I was left with a real understanding of both the parents and child’s perspective of this cycle of hurt and loss repeating itself. Its impact can’t be taken lightly, especially for a first time feature. 

Very much looking forward to her next film, The Rider. Which I’ve heard so many good things about.

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