Tuesday, September 10, 2013
The Beautiful Independent Drama 'MOTHER OF GEORGE' Addresses Societal Pressures To Conceive
Raise your hand if you've been asked the following question: When are you going to have a baby? Chances are, whether you're single or married, you've been approached with this somewhat intrusive question about your reproductive system, especially if you're a woman with a biological clock that is (according to popular belief) nearing expiration. Even if you're already a parent, you may get the question: When are you going to have another baby? These days, it's hard enough to find someone you want to date, never mind co-parent a child.
That's why MOTHER OF GEORGE is such a timely film. Director Andrew Dosunmu (who directed Restless City two years ago) graciously helms screenwriter Darci Picoult's story of Adenike (Danai Gurira of The Walking Dead), a young Nigerian woman who's relocated from her native country to Brooklyn, New York, with her new husband Ayodele (Isaach De Bankolé). The newlyweds struggle to settle into their new surroundings: Ayodele opens a restaurant in the neighborhood in the middle of a recession, while Adenike finds solace in her longtime friendship with Sade (Yaya Alafia), a fellow Nigerian who's had more time to adjust to American culture.
But while the film captures Nigerian culture in a warm and honest way (down to the beautiful wardrobe), it also strikes a chord with many Americans who face similar pressures to conceive. Soon after her wedding, Adenike is probed with questions from everyone, especially her mother-in-law, about when she was going to get pregnant: When are you going to give me a grandchild? Have you thought about your age? Have you've been trying? How often? Needless to say, it becomes a stressful situation for Adenike, who's just approaching 30 years of age and is made to feel like it's her fault she has not performed her duty as a woman and given birth. At one point in the film, she tries to move the conversation away from her failed uterus by saying to her husband, I'm thinking about getting a job. This is taken as a comment of defiance yet not regarded seriously. But while Ayodele casually offers Adenike a job at his restaurant, she says she would rather earn her own money. This is a defining moment in the film as we learn Adenike's interests may stray outside what is expected of her, like finding a job and wearing subtly suggestive clothes that don't comply with her usual Nigerian attire (the latter to the encouragement of Sade). But while she has a brief moment of courage, Ayodele reminds her in just one sentence that while they may be in the land of opportunity they are still regarded as immigrants: Do you know how many Africans I know with PhDs driving taxis?
With opportunities scarce, and both Adenike and Ayodele's determination to retain elements of their culture in their new home, the focus goes back to their potential parenthood. It results in Adenike going to drastic measures to conceive, which may coincidentally be directly against their tradition and the very thing that drives her and Ayodele further apart.
With MOTHER OF GEORGE, Dosunmu helms a beautiful story that is similar to The Namesake in its humble portrait of a family grappling with cultural ideals and personal identity. He often allows the lens to direct the audience, which is evident in several slow-motion shots of characters proudly walking down the street in gorgeous African attire, and in the breathtaking intimate scenes between Ayodele and Adenike. He allows his actors to be sensual and dignified, both sexually and intellectually. There's not a gratuitous moment in the film.
Gurira, in stark contrast to her role on The Walking Dead, plays a deeply vulnerable character that pulls at the heart strings. She's slowly drifting between two worlds, with little success in either, yet manages to be so accessible as a character that you can't take your eyes off her. As her counterpart, De Bankolé also plays a sympathetic character who comes off gruff in his approach, but is someone equally deserving of empathy.
But what MOTHER OF GEORGE does best is address a shared issue we have as women--dealing with pressures to conceive a child, balancing what is expected of us by our families versus what we want for ourselves, and even our roles as women in a world in which we're still trying to fit.
MOTHER OF GEORGE is in select theaters Friday.
Rating: A (***** out of *****)
Watch the trailer: