Mother of George
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Adenike and Ayodele (The Walking Dead's Danai Gurira and veteran actor Isaach De Bankolé) are a Nigerian couple living in Brooklyn. Following the joyous celebration of the their wedding, complications arise out of their inability to conceive a child - a problem that devastates their family and defies cultural expectations, leading Adenike to make a shocking decision that could either save her family or destroy it. Acclaimed director Andrew Dosumnu (Restless City) captures the nuances of this unique and fascinating culture by creating a beautiful, vibrant, and moving portrait of a couple whose joys and struggles are at once intimate and universal.
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Bernardo Bertolucci pioneered this identical cinematic approach of intuitive, nonlinear, highly sensuous storytelling -- to the point where a former girlfriend and I both fell into a light hypnotic trance while watching his film LUNA -- and there is no difference here that matters: human beings are human beings, however constrained and checked by local and contingent habits of long tradition. Yield to it, and feel what Danai Gurira feels as she tries to satisfy her mother-in-law, please her husband, yet exercise agency and make decisions to save her marriage and her life. Nothing feels artificial, the cinematography and sound design are too deep and enveloping to permit Hollywood b.s. between her and us. This is not conventional movie storytelling!
Yes, her husband is rendered too opaque; yet aren't too many of us men, indeed, that? With all the authority our culture (or any culture, really) can afford, all the choices we could want in order to achieve the male ideal, how is our own true character ever to be revealed? Women, on the other hand, endlessly negotiate the gap between traditional ideal, group expectation, and biological happenstance, thereby revealing their character - as in MOTHER OF GEORGE. The stunning Danai Gurira will shortly blow us out of our socks as the Wakandan security chief in BLACK PANTHER; she has already blown us away as the award-winning playwright of ECLIPSED (the occasion of Lupita Nyong'o's acclaimed Broadway performance); here she disappears into the role of a Nigerian immigrant housewife under pressure to make babies for her husband and his mother -- as distant a set of circumstances as an American can perhaps conceive; which problem our director Andrew Dosunmu solves by resorting to pure cinema, image and sound, to eliminate the distance between us and Danai, so that her anxiety to meet family/cultural expectations feels as familiar and urgent as our own worries. (This film also vanquished my white-man's bias toward the use of warm colors as most compatible with sub-Saharan African dark skin tones: Dosunmu and Young emphasize blue light and backgrounds, achieving gorgeous effects with his dark-skinned cast. One doesn't want to surface from this world.)
I also would like to say the lighting was not great at times but I did not think it affected my ability to understand this film. The acting is excellent and the slow growing intensity of film more that makes up for any lighting challenges the film has.
After watching trailers for this movie, I thought there would be more depth to the plot. A bit disappointing, but still worth watching.