Why the Under-the-Radar Release Mother of George Deserves to Be Seen

Rating

A-

Location

Museum of Modern Art of Fort Worth 3200 Darnell St. Fort Worth, TX 76107

Dates

Opens Jan 31

Mother of George tells the story of young Nigerian couple living in Brooklyn who marry, but then can’t conceive a child. The wife, Adenike (Danai Gurira), tries to seek a solution. She goes to a doctor, she visits Nigerian mystics, but nothing will work. She tries to get her husband, Ayodele (Isaach De Bankolé), to go to the doctor, but he refuses. The situation generates cross-cultural friction. Finally, Adenike’s  mother-in-law comes up with a more shocking solution.

The strength of Mother of George is director Andrew Dosunmu and cinematographer Bradford Young’s (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) unique visual style. It is a beautiful, painterly film. Colorful Nigerian dresses function like operatic costumes — framing, expressing and developing Adenika’s character, while setting her apart and isolating her from the world outside the tight-knit Nigerian immigrant community. Shallow focus, slow blurs, rich purples and blacks, shots that play off mirrors, framing that obscures or obstructs action: the simplicity of the story’s essential action is deepened by these continually evocating visual techniques. The result is a film about cultural and emotional isolation that blurs into a kind of cinematic abstraction — its visual language engrossing and nuanced, punctuated by an effective use of music (particularly Strauss’ Im Abendrot).

Mother of George is driven by a collision of cultural expectations and personal desires. Though it is set in an ever-busy New York, Adenike exists in a universe that seems to dissolve beyond arm’s reach. This intensifies the psychological pressure. Pressure is generated by love — love of her husband, love of family, and a willing embrace of cultural mores. These societal expectations, though, thrust the plot into a framework of action that feels biblical or mythical: moral absurdity propelling tragic fallout. The devastating irony is that it is Adenike’s boundless love and full-souled willingness to save her marriage that ends up driving it towards destruction.