Songs My Brothers Taught Me

This complex portrait of modern-day life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation explores the bond between a brother and his younger sister, who find themselves on separate paths to rediscovering the meaning of home.


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  • ★★★★ review by SnowboardJunkie on Letterboxd

    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 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 to all of it.

    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.

  • ★★★★★ review by Aleski on Letterboxd

    This is one of the most beautiful / sad movie I've seen this year. I love the way Chloé Zhao worked with the scenario and the actors, I love how she shot it, the light is incredible, the music is amazing.

    + I'm so happy this movie has been distributed in France because we never talk / see / hear about native americans' living conditions.

    (bonus : directed, written and produced by women ! yay !)

  • ★★★½ review by megan on Letterboxd

    disclaimer: I really thought I was going to hate this style of filmmaking but damn was I wrong. this is such a beautiful story with just as beautiful cinematography and characters. 

    also, the song her brother taught her was macklemore’s “thrift shop”???

  • ★★★★★ review by Chuck Forsman on Letterboxd

    Beautiful and honest. Like Terrence Mallick and Larry Clark telling a story about young people living on a reservation.

  • ★★★★½ review by elizard on Letterboxd

    although my watching experience was interrupted by my good friend getting sick and passing out in the middle from the shaky cam, candy and soda she'd just eaten, and amount of weed we'd consumed prior to arriving, chloe knocked the wind out of me while simultaneously igniting my love of realism and curiosity of subcultures.

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