Andrew Dosunmu’s second feature, “Mother of George,” is an ostensibly simple story made immeasurably moving by the extreme beauty of the images, the exquisite performances of the lead and supporting actors and the desperate action Adenike (Danai Gurira) takes, overcoming the shame she feels, to preserve her marriage to Ayodele (Isaach De Bankolé).
Their traditional Nigerian wedding, held in a catering hall in Brooklyn, opens the film. Amid a swirl of golden robes and glowing light (Dosunmu told me he was influenced by Byzantine paintings), Ayo, who owns a restaurant, and Ike, recently arrived from Africa, are blessed by family and community elders, wishing them happiness.
A major component of Ayo and Ike’s happiness (and that of their families, particularly his mother) is meant to be derived from children, and the matriarch all but demands a rapidly-conceived, first-born boy. As the months pass without Ike becoming pregnant, tension erodes the sweetness and respect between her and her husband.
Dosunmu, working with a sensitive script by Darci Picoult and employing Bradford Young’s luminous cinematography (which has much in common with avant-garde cinema), pays close attention to his characters, revealing the struggles in Ayo’s and Ike’s lives as both specific to their culture and universal.
“Mother of George” opens today in New York at the Angelika Film Center with a platform release nationwide to follow.