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 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 !)

  • ★★★★ review by Peter Valerio on Letterboxd

    Beautiful cinematography captures many small moments that accumulate and create a portrait of the lives of young people on a reservation.

  • ★★★½ review by Boonmee on Letterboxd

    One of 2016's more overlooked films. Songs My Brothers Taught Me offers a peek at the melancholy lives of Native Americans living on a reservation in what appears to be the midwest. It's a quiet film and very Malick-esque at times in its lyrical, non-linear editing style. The acting isn't great and it often meanders into dullness occasionally, but as an overall experience, I found it quite poetic and moving. Some slightly more purposeful, focused direction would undoubtedly elevate this, but it's still a meaningful, well-composed piece of work.

  • ★★★★ review by Jesse Brickzin on Letterboxd

    a sad and intimate look at lives of a preteen sister and teen brother living in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota..the cinematography was really good too and at times has a Malick feel to it..I liked it quite a bit.

  • ★★★★ review by Hans Morgenstern on Letterboxd

    It seems first-time feature director Chloé Zhao has produced a Terrence Malick film that’s better than any of Malick’s recent films. It’s easy to note similarities in Songs My Brothers Taught Me with a film like Badlands for its location in the real Badlands of South Dakota (although Badlands was actually filmed in Colorado). Shot with an eye toward the sky by cinematographer Joshua James Richards, Songs often unfolds outdoors, against gorgeous exteriors during the magic hour of twilight. But on another level, the film also has a casual ease of story that never feels like a task to follow.

    Featuring mostly non-actors, Zhao captures relaxed and genuine performances of clearly fleshed out characters that feel so natural, you almost wonder if you are watching a documentary. In a way, her film is a documentary, presenting life on an Indian reservation driven by experiences based on the actors’ true life stories, as revealed in her director’s notes. The film follows Johnny Winters (John Reddy), who has just finished high school and faces the rest of his life with little direction except for a pull to leave his small home on the reservation where he lives with his mother (Irene Bedard) and little sister, Jashaun (Jashaun St. John). This single-parent family were a casual part of the life of a deceased father who may have sired as many as 25 children on the reservation, and their solitude is felt profoundly in their quiet pain. The one who really seems to suffer it most acutely is the mother. It bears noting that Bedford, the biggest name actress in the film besides Taysha Fuller who plays Johnny’s girlfriend, also feels as she pushes her performance more heavy handedly than the non-actors. The film thrives on its natural quality. It’s subtlety and plainspoken beauty, though often laced by tragedy, is the film’s biggest strength...

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