(director/writer: Ava DuVernay; cinematographer: Bradford Young; editor: Spencer Averick; music: Kathryn Bostic; cast: Emayatzy Corinealdi (Ruby Murray), Omari Hardwick (Derek), David Oyelowo (Brian), Lorraine Toussaint (Ruth), Sharon Lawrence (Alberta Fraine), Edwina Findley (Rosie), Nehemiah Sutton (Nickie), Felisha Anoa’i (Pongesa), Troy Curvey III (Rashad), Maya Gilbert (Gina); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Howard Barish/Ava DuVernay/Paul Garnes; Participant Media; 2012)

“The fine acting between the two leads is filled with determination and passion for their characters.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A slow-moving but enriched character study movie that is ably directed and written by Ava DuVernay (“I Will Follow”). The thoughtful narrative involves the Compton residing twenty-something registered nurse Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi), a medical school drop-out because of hubby’s criminal problems, committed to loyally waiting for her laconic, soft-spoken, heavily tattooed prisoner husband Derek (Omari Hardwick) to get paroled. Derek is serving an 8 year stretch for an undisclosed non-violent crime, that’s for some reason not disclosed until the end through flashbacks. When the gentle hunky divorced bus driver Brian (David Oyelowo), raising a young daughter, makes a move on passenger Ruby, the quiet lady who is still paying off hubby’s lawyer’s tab and is faced with money problems, resists until her steadfast loyalty to hubby gets tested one day when she discovers some sordid prison secret hubby never divulged and now feeling betrayed must make a choice if it’s worth remaining with her felon hubby, who also got involved in a violent prison incident and squanders his chance for an early release of just under five years for good behavior.

Ruby’s bossy mom Ruth (Lorraine Toussaint) looks upon her subdued daughter’s unwillingness to have a social life with disapproval, and opts for her daughter to move on from her unfaithful felon hubby and free herself from her self-imposed prison sentence. Also living with Rubyis her sister, Rosie (Edwina Findley), a single mother living on the poverty line with a feisty young son named Nickie (Nehemiah Sutton).

Ruby’s love dilemma involves a passionate search to find her true self, but it never means as much as it should because everything is left so hazy and the viewer can so easily become uninvolved because of all the back story loose-ends. What remains solid is that the real-life situation is tenderly explored without cliches and overwrought melodrama, and the fine acting between the two leads is filled with determination and passion for their characters.

DuVernay was the winner of the Best Director Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. The intelligent African-American melodrama is a low-budget indie with fair production values, and though setting a glum tone is moderately entertaining and well conceived to give us a pungent look at how a woman might handle herself when hubby is behind bars for a lengthy sentence.