Songs My Brothers Taught Me Screen 8 articles

Songs My Brothers Taught Me


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  • Zhao's conceptual rigor initially stuns for its ambition... Unfortunately, Zhao lapses into an overdetermined poetic structure that reduces Johnny's hardships to fleetingly precious evocations of hardship.

  • It’s a wispy but charming story of two slightly adrift kids who just happen to live on a reservation, and willingly runs the risk of seeming a bit ordinary. Viewers will be torn between admiring its laid-back naturalism and wishing it possessed just a little more oomph.

  • Throughout, Zhao keeps her camerawork loose, observing the performances in often tight framing and shooting in a notably Malickian style in mostly natural light. Peter Golub’s mournful score is restrained, punctuating moments of heightened intensity with delicacy, and otherwise allowing natural sound to form the backbone of the film’s aural elements.

  • Isolation, alcoholism, and dead-end cycles on the reservation have been depicted so frequently in cinema that more levity or invention would've been welcome. Yet the performances are undeniably authentic, the cinematography could make Terrence Malick stand to give a slow clap, and sometimes a sensitive mood and evocative milieu are enough to sustain when there's barely a plot.

  • The story’s ending, complete with lyrical voice-over, conveys the beauty and emotional attraction of the place and its traditions, virtues also relayed by Joshua James Richard’s sumptuous, sometimes breathtaking cinematography. Other assets include the strong performances Zhao gets from her mostly non-professional cast, and Peter Golub’s spare, haunting score.

  • The slow-paced film includes all the expected social themes — drinking, poverty, broken families. Where Zhao excels is in the range of emotions she gets from a mostly nonprofessional cast. She refuses to slot these interesting people into another downbeat tale of reservation life. Instead, her camera dwells on the emotional and spiritual reasons young JaShaun, in particular, remains fiercely attached to Pine Ridge.

  • Songs My Brothers Taught Me is a socially relevant and aesthetically impressive film. It considers the hopeful and bleak qualities of underrepresented experiences in equal measure.

  • Songs My Brothers Taught Me, Chinese-American filmmaker Chloé Zhao’s persuasively melancholy socialist realist drama, centers on the circumscribed lives of young Lakotas... Zhao resists courting our sympathy by presenting the Winters’ life as squalid, though many Pine Ridge families live without heating, clean water, or sanitation.

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