Film Appreciation: Mother Of George

Film Appreciation: Mother Of George

Mother Of George is a visually stunning film with a complex story line. A couple finds their marriage under threat when the attitudes of modern New York clash with their Yoruban (Nigerian) traditions. Director Andrew Dosunmu, working from a script by Darci Picoult, provides ample clues as to why such tensions occur and why compromise is so difficult.

The opening scenes depict an uncommonly lovely wedding between Ayo (Isaach De Bankolé) and Nike (Danai Gurira, The Walking Dead). Bananas (showing their life will be without blemish) and pineapple (symbolizing sweetness) are served. Guests shower Nike with dollar bills. Her new mother-in-law, Ma Ayo (Bukky Ajayi), tells Nike their first child will be named George, after an ancestor. From the comments made by their guests, it is clear everyone expects the newlyweds to conceive immediately.

Eighteen months pass. Ayo and Nike are still deeply in love. He and his brother Biyi (Anthony Okungbowa) run a Nigerian restaurant. Even so, Nike insists on bringing Ayo meals that she prepares at home. Ayo prefers that Nike not work outside the home. She spends time sewing or going out with her adventurous friend Sade (Yaya Alafia). (Nike is not aware Biyi and Sade have a clandestine relationship.)

There is only one problem: Nike has not gotten pregnant. Ma Ayo insists that Nike try a noxious (and ineffective) herbal remedy. She receives a blessing from a holy man, to no avail. Yoruban culture allows the husband to take a second wife in such circumstances, and Nike worries Ayo may do this.

Nike tries going to a fertility clinic, but they want Ayo to participate as well. He refuses, citing the cost. Ma Ayo proposes a shocking alternative, and a desperate Nike takes her suggestion. This action has the potential to save her marriage- or destroy it.

Although the entire cast does good work, the film belongs to Danai Gurira and Isaach de Bankolé. The chemistry between those two is a joy to watch. There is a wonderful scene where Sade takes Nike shopping. Over Nike’s embarrassed objections, Sade buys Nike a stylish, but sheer, blue blouse. Nike wears the blouse to Ayo’s restaurant, hoping he will like it. He voices immediate reservations, like the ones we heard from Nike a scene or so earlier. (Later he tells Nike that he does like the blouse, but simply does not want other men seeing it on her.)

Bradford Young’s cinematography is truly outstanding. It is not just his rendering of the vivid colors, although that is worth mention all by itself. Young uses filtered images-through windows or in mirrors-to spectacular effect. He also employs soft focus at various points to give insight into the emotional states of characters.

Theme: Culture Clash

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