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.