Mother of George
Directed by Andrew Dosunmu
A story about a woman willing to do anything and risk everything for her marriage.
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★★★★ review by Asif Khan on Letterboxd
Mother of George is a Nigerian drama directed by Andrew Dosunmu and stars Isaach de Bankolé as well as Danai Gurira (from "The Walking Dead"). It premiered at Sundance Film Festival last year and received Cinematography Award: U.S. Dramatic for Bradford Young's contribution to this film as well as "Ain't Them Bodies Saints". This is a domestic drama centered around a family of immigrants from Nigeria living in New York City. It opens with a traditional wedding ceremony of Adenike and Ayodele, attended by many of their relatives and people of the community. A lush, exotic and fascinating blend of colors, costumes and traditions. It is one of the most richly photographed and depicted wedding sequences that you will see. A long ceremony that is captured with utmost craft, catching every bit of its importance and extravagant through the lens of the camera. In many cultures, a married woman is supposed to give birth or else she hasn't done her part in the marriage. In this film, the mother of the groom practically demands a grandchild within the first year of the marriage.
Several slow-motion, beautifully focused and colorfully ignited sequences. Cinematography and costume design is the highlight of this film. The close-ups keeps our focus on the characters and their emotions, nothing else matters. The poetic photography helps in both immersing as well as keeping us at a particular distance. The character played by Danai Gurira is a strong and ambitious woman but is torn, frustrated and pushed to her limits. Gurira gives a fascinating performance in the film. The plot has so much range throughout. Sexuality is approached in many ways. Mother of George also has a transfixing score mixed with traditional and symphonic tunes. An aural and visual experience, boldly portraying layers and layers of complicated relationships and giving a whole new meaning to what its like to be a married woman. Exotic and terrifying, intensely dramatic and alienating.
Part of the "Quick Takes": asifandmovies.blogspot.com/2014/10/quick-takes-mother-of-george-this-is.html
★★★½ review by Vincent Lao on Letterboxd
Andrew Dosunmu’s exquisite story of a newlywed Nigerian woman evoked some powerful impressions due to its committed, poetic performances and visually-sumptuous cinematography. The film centers on Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead) who plays Adenike, a woman living under the pressure of having a child. The film’s controlled power succeeds as Dosunmu integrates his characters’ colorful Nigerian culture within the cosmopolitan city of Brooklyn, New York. With this integration, miscommunication occurs within both parties and the result is quite devastating.
Surely Dosunmu has an obsession for unique camera projections and bold colors, which are presented vividly by Bradford Young’s delicious cinematography. The film beautifully captures Adenike’s personal struggle of not only doing her responsibility bestowed by her culture as a woman, but also the fact of her wanting to become an independent African woman living in America. Gurira’s complex portrayal makes Adenike alive and very radiant. Supporting her was the great Isaach De Bankolé, Tony Okungbowa, and Yaya da Costa who all gave stunning turns. In the end, Mother of George delivered well. It’s a thoughtful, passionate story backed by powerful performances and exquisite cinematography.
★★★½ review by TajLV on Letterboxd
Film #6 of 30 in my March Around The World | 2018 Challenge (Nigeria)
This film from Nigerian director Andrew Dosunmu earned him a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize (dramatic) at Sundance and won his cameraman Bradford Young the Cinematography Award. It's rated the most popular film from Nigeria by Letterboxd viewers and holds a 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The story opens in Brooklyn, New York, where we witness a colorful Nigerian wedding ceremony. We see the rituals, the guests, the gifts and, of course, the happy couple -- Ayodele Balogun (Isaach De Bankolé) and his beautiful bride Adenike (Danai Gurira). It becomes clear rather quickly that the newlyweds are expected to produce offspring as quickly as possible.
In fact, Ayodele's widowed mother Mama Ayo (Bukky Ajayi) gives her new daughter-in-law some fertility beads along with the cloth that she carried her son in as a baby. Adenike is to bear him a son and name the infant George Babatunde, hence the name of the movie. Not surprisingly, the newly married couple do their best to conceive a family heir on the night of their union, more than happy to start adding to the Balogun family lineage.
We see that Ayodele is a cook in an ethnic African restaurant. He's surrounded by food, but Adenike makes and brings him a home-cooked lunch so that he needn't eat what he prepares for others. In all aspects, she's the dutiful wife, even drinking foul-tasting aloe and tea to help her get pregnant. However, Adenike also has a desire to work, which goes against her husband's bread-winner mentality, so she lets it go.
Truth be told, Adenike is expected to do only one thing -- bear children. And when she doesn't do so after 18 months, Ma Ayo tells her that her son should perhaps take a second wife. Little does anyone know, he's already been playing around on the side with his wife's best friend Sade (Yaya Alafia), so it's not a far-fetched concept at all. Adenike consults with a fertility doctor who says he can help but when Ayodele sees the cost, he's dead against it.
Adenike tries consulting a medicine man. She tries Christian prayer. Sade suggests adoption as a possibility, but she rejects it, wanting her own baby. Then Ma Ayo proposes a radical solution. If the problem is her son, she has another son Biyi (Anthony Okungbowa) who may be able to provide the virile seed. "It's the same blood," she says. "A child belongs to us all." Wow!
But Biyi has a say in this, too, and despite his mother's prodding and Adenike's willingness, he's against the whole thing. Will he relent? Will Adenike get pregnant? Will Ayodele discover the conspiracy? And if he does, what will he do?
With its the lovely photography, the film shows us a slice of New York that could easily have been carved right out of Lagos. The community of Nigerian immigrants retains its cultural identity, for better or worse, even while seeming to embrace the ways of the New World. No need to cross the Atlantic to reach Africa -- it's just across the East River from Wall Street.
★★★★ review by Peter Valerio on Letterboxd
A Nigerian newlywed couple, living in New York, is having trouble conceiving. The composition of every shot in this film is beautiful.
★★★½ review by Rakestraw on Letterboxd
Mother of George begins with, what appears to be, a traditional Nigerian wedding ceremony; a beautifully captured parade of color, life and culture, bringing together Ayodele (Isaach De Bankolé) and Adenike (Danai Gurira), the central couple of the film. Ayodele bows before his elders while they administer advice, prayers, hopes and dreams; while, Adenike graciously accepts gifts of fruit pertaining to various aspects of her new, yet to be lived, life as a wife and mother. All of these actions are a precursor to real goal, the real hope that everyone shares in the wedding party – that is to have children. As quick as possible and, at least, four – minimum.
That’s Adenike’s life now – produce children for her husband, Ayodele, but more importantly for Ayodele’s mother, Ma Ayo (Bukky Ajayi). This becomes her reason for existence – to produce offspring – which should be easy enough considering couples conceive constantly by accident so there should be no pressure. The only pressure that exists for Adenike is that failing to produce offspring equates to failing as a wife (or essentially as a woman) in her culture. Again, no pressure.
This deceptively simple narrative relies heavily upon strong central performances to succeed and luckily for Dosunmu, Isaach De Bankolé and Danai Gurira are up to the task. De Bankolé does an admirable job as the hard-working husband that wholly and completely loves his wife, but also happens to be a little apprehensive to Western medicine. The real standout, performance-wise, comes from Danai Gurira as Adenike the loving wife who will do anything and everything to provide for her husband, even making emotionally devastating decisions to bring happiness to Ayodele and his Mother. Gurira effectively communicates all of the complicated emotions frought with the cultural and familial pressures of producing children even though all attempts have failed.
The other standout has to be Bradford Young’s cinematography, which won him the Cinematography Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival along with his work on Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, an exquisite mixture of slow-motion, soft focus and stunning portrait-style photography. All of which could easily be lifted from the screen and framed, a welcomed addition to any wall, gallery or otherwise. The most prominent aspect of Dosunmu and Young’s collaboration happens to be the heavy use of close-ups; the viewer is thrust into the world and culture of the film’s characters, completely ignoring the film’s setting and surroundings which is remarkable since their films are set within the expanse of New York City. They happen to be New York films without ever showing New York itself, which is unusual given that most (if not all) New York films the city plays such an important role.
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