Film: Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Chloe Zhao's 2015 film Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Chloe Zhao's 2015 film Songs My Brothers Taught Me - Credit: Supplied

Mank by name and manky by nature, this year's Oscar pleaders are a dismal bunch.

Like a makeshift international football team hastily assembled to fulfil a fixture after the entire first-team squad dies in a plane crash, this ragtag collection is trying to adapt to the spotlight and act like this is what they are accustomed to and deserve. The exception though is Chloe Zhao's Nomadland, the work of a filmmaker who has forged a distinctive and original vision over just three films.

Chloe Zhao's Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Chloe Zhao's Songs My Brothers Taught Me - Credit: Supplied

Her method is observational documentary as dramatised recreation; her subject is the contemporary wild west. Zhao's debut follows the lives of a brother and sister (Reddy and St John) on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, an existence of rodeos, bootleg booze and very little parental guidance.

There's a strong Malick influence with handheld shots of young people walking across fields and beautifully composed landscapes. It's all a bit drifty and aimless. The ability to connect with a wider audience will come later, but the talent for spotting faces and getting strong performances from non-actors is already fully in evidence. 3/5 stars.

Directed by Chloe Zhao. 2015. Starring John Reddy, Jashaun St. John, Taysha Fuller, Travis Lone Hill and Irene Bedard. Exclusively on MUBI from April 6. Running time: 97 mins.

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