Mother Of George

Mother Of George


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

It's not usual to mention a cinematographer at the top of a review but Bradford Young deserves to be much more celebrated - along with Robbie Ryan (born in the same year) and Lol Crawley (just three years older) - as one of the finest cinematographers of his generation. His striking camerwork was one of the best things about Andrew Dosunmu's debut Restless City, he was responsible for the equally dreamy, 'magic hour' lensing on David Lowery's Ain't Them Bodies Saints and kept the focus tight on Dee Rees' Pariah. Here he brings a riot of colour and glow of humanity to Dosunmu's follow-up Mother Of George - winner of the cinematography award at Sundance - which though dripping in style retains naturalism in its canvas, supporting the narrative without overshadowing it.

This is a more focused film from Dosunmu's perspective, as he retains the little-seen-on-screen environment of African emigres living in New York that he explored in Restless City but this time marries it to a far more sturdy and engrossing plot, scripted by first-time feature writer Darci Picoult. Dosunmu and Young immediately plunge us into the world of Brooklyn as seen through the eyes of the Nigerian diaspora, gathered to celebrate the wedding of Adenike (Danai Gurira) and Ayodele (Isaach De Bankolé), an affair steeped in the traditions of their homeland, where ancestors, prosperity and fertility loom large.

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Adenike and Ayodele may be in New York but they are not 'of' it, their tight-knit family unit, including Ayodele's overbearing mother (Bukky Ajayi) and his brother Biyi (Anthony Okungbowa) holding the rituals of their homeland close. The union of the husband and wife is most categorically not complete without the offspring to show for it - a fact underlined by Ayodele's mother going so far as to name their as-yet unconceived son George at the climax of the ceremony.

As life returns to normal, with Ayodele running an African restaurant alongside his brother and Adenike mostly keeping house, the months roll by with no sign of pregnancy. There are hints of culture clash here - with Adenike's best pal Sade (Yaya Alafia), sporting more westernised attitudes and outfits and encouraging Adenike to do likewise. But this is less about the bigger picture than about the drama unfolding between a husband and wife who despite an obvious and deep love for one another, are confined by tradition. New York as it is usually represented is barely seen here and certainly not marked out as something that must be embraced. But Picoult is interested in tradition as a snare, when patriarchy goes beyond a man feeling superior to something much more embedded, where betrayal may be seen as a logical choice. Ironically, it is not the men who, by and large, are enforcing this convention but the women conforming in order to fulfil their traditional role.

The joy is in the detail of Dosunmu's film, the nuance of a relationship as richly complex as the African print dresses that Adenike favours. Gurira and De Bankolé put in measured performances, somehow pulling the subject matter back from too much melodrama. All the while, Young's camera peers in at their world and asks us to see things from both their perspectives. When it comes to the crunch, these people care deeply - and so do we.

Reviewed on: 09 Oct 2013
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A husband and wife find their marraige threatened by an inability to conceive.

Director: Andrew Dosunmu

Writer: Darci Picoult

Starring: Isaach De Bankolé, Danai Gurira, Anthony Okungbowa, Yaya Alafia, Bukky Ajayi

Year: 2013

Runtime: 106 minutes

Country: US

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