Director: Victor Nunez
A wonderfully expressive character study exhibiting a thoughtfulness and concern for real life rare in American cinema, Ruby In Paradise rewards the care put into it and the patience it asks of audiences. After an eight-year layoff from filmmaking (after Gal Young 'Un and A Flash Of Green), Victor Nunez has returned with the sort of film whose gentle, intelligent qualities never make for an easy sell.
Telling the sort of quiet, non-action-orientated story more often associated with literature, Nunez has pulled off several difficult things here - illuminating an easily dismissed milieu without applying a sociological microscope, commenting upon the American class system without being didactic, examining the relative roles chance and individuals will play in anyone's life and, above all, vividly portraying a young woman's inner life.
In the last regard, he is incalculably aided by the extraordinary central performance of Ashley Judd. Poised and possessed of an appealing gravity, this new actress rivets one's attention.
Escaping small town Tennessee, Ruby lands in Panama City, a tourist town on Florida's 'redneck Riviera'. She finds a job in a local souvenir shop, and sleeps with good-looking but shallow Ricky (who ranks himself the local roué), later developing a more meaningful romance with nurseryman Mike. But plot points are, in a way, the least important aspects of the film, which has more to do with the way in which one approaches life and deals with its challenges and frustrations. As Ruby's friend and sometimes co-worker Rochelle puts it, the key to life is "how to survive with your soul intact."
- Todd McCarthy, Variety