Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen Christopher Nolan Says 'Interstellar' Is About "What It Means To Be A Dad”; Plus Check Out New Pics Christopher Nolan Says 'Interstellar' Is About "What It Means To Be A Dad”; Plus Check Out New Pics Paul Schrader, Nicolas Winding Refn & Nicolas Cage Campaign Against Their Film 'Dying Of The Light' Paul Schrader, Nicolas Winding Refn & Nicolas Cage Campaign Against Their Film 'Dying Of The Light' WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage 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 Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes

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