courtesy photoDanai Gurira plays a Nigerian woman in New York who is ordered to have a baby in “Mother of George.”

courtesy photoDanai Gurira plays a Nigerian woman in New York who is ordered to have a baby in “Mother of George.”

Nigerian family’s tale an engrossing journey

Set in a West African pocket of Brooklyn, N.Y., “Mother of George” is a domestic melodrama, an immigrant tale and a story of women dealing with infertility and oppressive aspects of cultural tradition.

Wardrobe sometimes upstages character in this sophomore feature from director Andrew Dosunmu (“Restless City”). But the people are vibrant and the predicaments distinctive and engrossing.

Written by playwright-performer Darci Picoult, the movie is a minimally plotted, visually sensual drama that suggests any number of immigrant-condition films as well as the infertility-themed “Never Forever.” Specifically about a Nigerian family in contemporary Brooklyn, it begins with a joyous wedding.

Gender and generation issues quickly materialize for the young bride, Adenike (Danai Gurira), and the older groom, Ayodele (Isaach De Bankole), who runs a restaurant with his brother, Biyi (Tony Okungbowa).

While men advise Ayo about how to hide infidelities from one’s wife, Ike learns from her mother-in-law (Bukky Ajayi) about the family’s chief expectation of her. Bear a son and name him George (after the groom’s late father).

When no George exists after 18 months, Ike is blamed. At the advice of her modern friend Sade (Yaya Alafia), Ike wants to visit a fertility specialist with Ayo, but Ayo, who, may be the source of the infertility, refuses.

Pressured by her mother-in-law to produce an heir, and fearing that Ayo will take another wife, Ike chooses a course of action that could prove shattering.

Dosunmu, a Nigeria-born New Yorker and former fashion photographer, enhances the thin story with gorgeous images, particularly of Ike’s colorfully patterned African scarves and dresses.

Presented by cinematographer Bradford Young, these surfaces dazzle, but Dosunmu sometimes lets them take the place of material involving Ike’s deeper workings. What are her desires and dreams? We get hints — she wants to get a job, for example — but not enough.

Although the characters aren’t completely developed, they are passionate and interesting. Dosunmu doesn’t lose his grip on the story’s emotional factors, and his actors deliver beautifully.

Gurira (“The Walking Dead”), conveys both desperation and conviction on her expressive face. De Bankole (a regular in Jim Jarmusch’s and Claire Denis’ films), playing a decent man trapped by circumstances, has a quietly devastating scene.

Dosunmu’s attention paid to everyday detail — hands, feet, food, laundry — is also enriching, making for a small but sometimes intoxicating story about old, new, tradition, individuality, and the stickier things people do in the name of love and family.

REVIEW

Mother of George

With Danai Gurira, Isaach De Bankole, Bukky Ajayi, Tony Okungbowa

Written by Darci Picoult

Directed by Andrew Dosunmu

Rated R

Running time 1 hour, 47 minutesAndrew DosunmuartsDanai GuriraMother of GeorgeMovies

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A health care worker receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images/TNS)
City sets ambitious goal to vaccinate residents by June

Limited supply slows distribution of doses as health officials seek to expand access

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden arrive at Biden's inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021, in Washington, DC.  (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)
Joe Biden issues call for ‘unity’ amidst extreme partisan rancor

‘I will be a president for all Americans,’ he says in inauguration speech

MARIETTA, GA - NOVEMBER 15: Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff (R) and Raphael Warnock (L) of Georgia taps elbows during a rally for supporters on November 15, 2020 in Marietta, Georgia. Both become senators Wednesday.  (Jenny Jarvie/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Vice President Harris swears in senators Padilla, Warnock, Ossoff

New Democratic senators tip balance of power in upper legislative house

The charismatic Adarsh Gourav, left, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas star in “The White Tiger,” Ramin Bahrani’s adaptation of the novel by Aravind Adiga.<ins> (Courtesy Netflix)</ins>
‘White Tiger’ takes in-depth look at India’s caste system

‘Identifying Features’ depicts human effects of Mexico’s drug wars

President Joe Biden plans to sign a number of executive orders over the next week. (Biden Transition/CNP/Zuma Press/TNS)
Biden signals new direction by signing mask order on his first day in office

President plans ambitious 10-day push of executive orders, legislation

Most Read