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Songs My Brother Taught Me: A story from the margins of US society

Like Chloe Zhao's previous, Nomadland, Songs My Brother Taught Me liberally casts non-actors to create a palpable sense of authenticity.

Songs My Brother Taught Me from director Clhoe Zhao is on Mubi now. Credit: Photo 12 / Alamy Stock Photo

Chloe Zhao recently made history by becoming the first woman to receive four Oscar nominations for the same movie.

Nomadland, her textured portrait of modern US itinerant life, will belatedly arrive in the UK on Disney+ later this month but the writer/director/editor’s next film Eternals is already in the can: an epic Marvel blockbuster about reawakened cosmic gods starring Angelina Jolie.

Perhaps sensing that this is going to be a banner year for Zhao, Mubi have sought out her directorial debut to allow those who might have missed it on the film festival circuit a chance to see what all the fuss is about.

Like Nomadland, Songs My Brother Taught Me is a story from the margins of US society that liberally casts non-actors to create a palpable sense of authenticity.

On a hardscrabble reservation in South Dakota, taciturn but soulful teen Johnny (John Reddy) dreams of joining his sweet girlfriend as she heads to college in LA. But can he scrape together the means to leave when his fractured family has been numbed by an unexpected bereavement? There are intermittent swells of love, loss and listlessness but in Zhao’s hands the unpredictable rhythms become hypnotic, with moments of startling natural beauty.

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