Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck The 10 Best Films Of 2002 The 10 Best Films Of 2002 Check Out These Minimalist, Old School Paperback-Style Posters For The Films Of Wes Anderson Check Out These Minimalist, Old School Paperback-Style Posters For The Films Of Wes Anderson First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' The 30 Most Anticipated Movies Of The 2015 Sundance Film Festival The 30 Most Anticipated Movies Of The 2015 Sundance Film Festival The 10 Best Films Of 2001 The 10 Best Films Of 2001 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment Watch: Full 90-Minute Documentary 'Great Directors' With David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Todd Haynes And More Watch: Full 90-Minute Documentary 'Great Directors' With David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Todd Haynes And More "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 20 Most Anticipated Foreign Films Of 2015 The 20 Most Anticipated Foreign Films Of 2015 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point

Review: Visually Arresting 'Mother Of George' Is A Stunning Accomplishment

The Playlist By Christopher Schobert | The Playlist September 26, 2013 at 3:28PM

It is hard to recall a wedding sequence as lovingly photographed, gorgeously realized, and downright joyous as the one that opens Andrew Dosunmu’s “Mother of George.” It is the union of a Nigerian couple living in Brooklyn, Adenike (Danai Gurira) and Ayodele (Isaac de Bankolé), an event that has brought friends and family together for a celebration of life, love, and—without question—fertility. It is an event driven by hope. “Nothing will ruin you two,” Adenike is told. “You and your husband will not know suffering.” There is humor (the couple is told to always eat dinner together, at home: “Even if you have eaten…Come home to eat again”), stirring music, and dancing, as well as real, tangible pressure.
1
Danai Gurira, Mother Of George

It is hard to recall a wedding sequence as lovingly photographed, gorgeously realized, and downright joyous as the one that opens Andrew Dosunmu’s “Mother of George.” It is the union of a Nigerian couple living in Brooklyn, Adenike (Danai Gurira) and Ayodele (Isaach De Bankolé), an event that has brought friends and family together for a celebration of life, love, and—without question—fertility. It is an event driven by hope. “Nothing will ruin you two,” Adenike is told. “You and your husband will not know suffering.” There is humor (the couple is told to always eat dinner together, at home: “Even if you have eaten…Come home to eat again”), stirring music, and dancing, as well as real, tangible pressure. As the night wears on, Ayodele’s sharp-tongued, authoritative mother, Ma Ayo (Bukky Ajayi), kindly gives Adenike the carrier she once used to carry her son on her back, urging her daughter-in-law to “carry my grandchild with it.”

The unborn, not-yet-conceived grandchild has a name: George. And throughout this emotionally complex, thrillingly vivid film, he is the impetus for longing, plotting, excitement, and heartbreak. The film that bears his name is a stunner, one of 2013’s finest dramas, and a breakthrough for its stars, Gurira ("The Walking Dead") and de Bankolé ("The Limits Of Control"), and especially for its director. (Indeed, Dosunmu has already signed onto a high-profile follow-up, a Fela Kuti biopic, replacing the formerly attached “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen, which should give some idea of the response to “Mother of George.”)

"Mother of George"
Oscilloscope "Mother of George"

Eloquently written by Darci Picoult, this Sundance Film Festival entry is photographed with Oscar-worthy elegance by Bradford Young (“Pariah,” “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”), a real rising star. He won a cinematography award at Sundance, and his striking, sensuous work is an undeniable highlight. You have never seen clothes shimmer in the breeze and colors fill the screen quite like this before. Young’s cinematography and Dosunmu’s direction contribute to a feeling not too dissimilar to that of another recent film centered around the importance of children and family to a close-knit community, Rama Burshtein’s “Fill the Void.” It is a sense that the audience is placed in the role of observer at all times, never fully connecting to the characters’ inner lives. While this does create a certain distance, it also drives home the feeling that community and blood is above the individual, and that tradition continues to dominate.

This is something Adenike learns early in her marriage. Ayodele runs a restaurant, employing his brother Biyi (Tony Okungbowa) and the stylish, opinionated Sade (Yaya Alafia), a friend and confidante to Adenike. It has been eighteen months since the wedding, and still, Adenike is not pregnant. Something is wrong, and she is unsure of what to do next. But there is hope, if she can talk her husband into seeing a doctor. During a long, unbroken scene, Adenike urges Ayodele to visit the doctor, and his response is unsurprisingly complex. He cannot afford it, he maintains, but clearly, there is more to it than that. As Adenike says at one point, “Why is it always the woman’s fault?” (Ayodele, however, is never presented as a villain. He is merely the product of a traditional world.)

Soon, Adenike’s mother-in-law proposes an idea, one that seems both absurd, and absurdly sensible. Once Adenike has made her decision, the film takes a sharp turn, and heads into moral territory than is not easy for her, or the viewer. What occurs is not necessarily surprising, but certainly fascinating, bringing issues of respect, intimacy, and honesty into the mix. Adenike, Ayodele, Biyi, and Sade are all tested, and the words of Ma Ayo take on new meaning: “A child belongs to all of us.” It all culminates in a satisfyingly open-ended conclusion.

“Mother of George” is the second film from Nigerian director Andrew Dosunmu, a music video director whose debut feature, “Restless City,” premiered at Sundance in 2011. In collaboration with Picoult and Young, he has brought to the screen the most visually arresting drama of 2013, and certainly one of the year’s best films. It is, in many ways, a film with a simple, easy to summarize story. But the resulting experience is not. From the acting—the film might not stand out amongst the fall-winter monsters, but Isaac de Bankolé and Danai Gurira each deserve to be in the Academy Awards discussion, while Tony Okungbowa, Yaya Alafia, and Bukky are fine in support—to the music (especially Strauss’s “Four Last Songs), it is remarkably full of life. “It was out of love,” Adenike says near film’s end, rationalizing her life-altering decision. The audience does not doubt that statement for a second, and perhaps that is “Mother of George” ’s greatest accomplishment. [A-]

This article is related to: Reviews, Review, Mother Of George, Danai Gurira, Isaach de Bankolé


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates