Mother of George
I was probably predisposed to like "Mother of George" to some extent. It checks off a lot of the boxes I like to see checked off by American independent films: It’s about a subculture I’m hardly an expert on, it’s shot with expertise instead of presented via flailing handheld-lensed compositions, it’s well-scripted instead of improvised.
But sophomore director Andrew Dosunmu has done a lot more than check off boxes with this picture, even if the man’s ambition may exceed his grasp. This picture aims to bring together old-school Hollywood melodrama tropes, poetically elliptical framing and editing, and an incredibly specific portrait of culture and place.
The film offers a sensualist dive into a tight-knit Nigerian family and community residing in Brooklyn. The focus rests on newlyweds Adenike and Ayodele. Though opening with infectiously joyous and meticulously coordinated wedding sequences -- scenes that culminate with Adenike being given beads that will ensure her fertility -- the picture quickly throws the bliss into disarray. The couple struggle to conceive for many elliptically detailed months, drawing the passive-aggressive ire of Ayodele’s mother. This provokes large moral and philosophical dilemmas for Adenike, dilemmas that are best left unspoiled but that give the film a tight narrative edge upon which to rest its emotions.
What’s most striking is how Dosunmu renders Adenike’s mindscape visually -- with the stark red of a painted wall coming into focus behind her, say, or in a fluttering line of laundry blocking most of her form from the frame. Then there’s the way he details textures: His camera, at one moment, lingering almost mesmerizingly in exacting focus at the contours of Adenike’s exposed upper back. This is an exactingly directed film.
"Mother of George" came to theaters and now DVD via the indispensible Oscilloscope Laboratories, who specialize in releasing the type of films that deserve distribution and otherwise would never find it. Their DVD release of the film is equally nurturing: There are a number of short deleted scenes -- about 7 minutes worth of footage across 7 "scenes" -- for starters, along with the requisite theatrical trailer.
There’s also interview footage with co-writer Darci Picoul and lead actress Danai Gurira. Finally, there’s a commentary with Dosunmu, his editor, and costume designer Mobolaji Dawodu. Costumer designers aren’t normally included on these tracks, but he’s earned his spot. The effect the cultural specificity (and oh, the colors) of Adenike’s wardrobe has on the film itself is immeasurable. Dawodu’s presence is felt in every frame, and his presence on the track allows him to illuminate his work in an invigorating way.
"Mother of George"