Blerd Film Club: Mother of George (2013)

Mother of George is a 2013 film directed by Andrew Dosunmu and stars Danai Gurira. Danai is best known for her roles in All Eyez on Me, The Walking Dead, and Black Panther. The film centers around a family of African immigrants in New York City, some who recently immigrated. Their day to day life is tormented by secrets they keep while trying to hold to their customs.

The film follows the new marriage of Ayo and Adenike Balogun. The first night Adenike is told that she will birth a child for Ayo and the child's name will be George. They consummate their marriage and things are going well. We see Adenike wake up early to take a pregnancy test every morning and it's clear that she's been through multiple tests and still hasn't been able to become pregnant. Ayo doesn't seem to care however it begins to worry Adenike. Not because she is personally worried but because she has started to be harassed. Her mother constantly asks why she isn't pregnant and Ayo's mother blaming her at every turn, even if Ayo never does.

Things grow worse as Ayo's mother pushes harder. At one point Adenike explains to her "Many women have babies in their thirties," only for Ayo's mother to snap "But you have not." Ayo begins to follow the advice of her own mother and Ma Ayo drinking various teas and eating certain foods. Ma Ayo threatens that Ayo will take a second wife if she doesn't have a child. Adenike asks what will happen if the wife does not conceive either, hinting that she knows that Ayo is the problem. Ma Ayo explains "then he will take another." That night Adenike and Ayo argue with Ayo promising he will never take another wife because Adenike is the only thing he has ever wanted from life.

Sade suggest that they simply adopt children an idea which Adenike rejects immediately stating she will give birth to a child. She resorts to attending rural settlements to have illegal procedures done by African immigrants who aren't quite doctors. It leaves her in pain and it doesn't help either. Through all of this Ayo refuses to visit a fertility doctor with her.

The climax comes when Ma Ayo tells Adenike to sleep with Ayo's brother Biyi. Claiming "They're brothers. It is the same blood and many women do it." After convincing, Adenike agrees to do it. She has sex with Biyi and later that day Ayo promises to go see a doctor with Adenike. By that point it's too late and it begins to wear on her. One night when Ayo is speaking to the baby and overjoyed, Adenike breaks down and tells him the truth.

He walks out of the home and tells his brother he can no longer work at his restaurant or refer to him as kin. He doesn't care if Biyi lives or dies as he wishes him out of his life otherwise he may kill him. He next goes to see his mother and tells her that she is manipulative, controlling and has no right to meddle in their marriage. He knows his mother wanted a grandchild but didn't know she had gone so far other than constantly bringing it up to Adenike. She gives him the same line "It's the same blood," and he's still disgusted.

He next closes the restaurant and attempts to leave with Adenike confronting him. She explains that she's sorry and he still attempts to drive off. She's yelling her apologies and he yells back at her "It's not okay for me to take another fucking wife but you do this shit." He drives off. Adenike goes into labor later that day. Ayo still shows up to the hospital when none of the people involved in pressuring her did so. The films ends with a conflicted Ayo walking towards her room, conflicted. Enraged about her actions but still in love with the only woman he ever wanted.

I have never been to Africa and I don't even identify as African American. I take the Smokey Robinson approach of "I'm just a black man, living in America." I make that statement because I don't necessarily understand every aspect of the many different cultures in a continent as large as Africa. Culture comes into play a lot in this films. Specifically around Adenike. She clashes with Sade at one point after Sade buys her a see-through shirt. When she explains "It shows everything," Sade only responds "Then go braless." From that point on, the only time we see Adenike in any Western clothes is when she attends a secret job interview. Yet, she also clashes with Ayo about in vitro fertilization and clearly doesn't believe in any of the teas or other home remedies people give her to get pregnant. Even with Ayo he wears western apparel when working at the restaurant but the moment that he's off work, he goes back to his traditional African style clothing.

Danai Gurira is an incredible actress. I knew that going in. I'd seen her in The Walking Dead and Black Panther, but her work in Mother of George is scary good. There's large chunks of the film where there are no spoken words and the camera only focuses on her actions. It's a masterclass on showing emotion through body language. It doesn't matter if she's cooking food seasoned with rage or walking with love. She's an actress that plays a different role every time you see her, but she manages to move you with every role.

I really have to point out that the cinematography in this one is just great from start to finish. It's done by Bradford Young. That's a name I didn't recognize at first but it turns out I've actually seen a lot of films where he was in charge of cinematography. Those credits include Pariah, Middle of Nowhere, and Arrival. He'll also be working on the new Han Solo film. I should have recognized his work from Arrival, a film I've seen several times. There's one shot in particular that I love. Adenike and Ayo are arguing and he leaves the table. The camera spins around behind her shoulder to show her view and it swings one last time to see them arguing in another room. It's such a smooth transition from one location to the next with some incredible framing. 

I'll be honest, it was hard to review this film. It's not a bad movie at all. It's just breaks you down emotionally scene after scene. The only true happy moment in the film is the opening during the celebration of Ayo and Adenike's wedding. Even the after party is filled with sadness. Adenike is told her only duty is to birth a child and keep Ayo happy. Ayo sits with other men from his family who give him the rules. Never take another wife without consulting Adenike. When he cheats he needs to always come home to sleep and eat even if he has already eaten. When Ayo tells them he has no intentions of cheating they all laugh at him as if being faithful is a fool's task.

It's also hard to watch because the characters who actually feel guilty about their actions, don't deserve to feel guilty. Adenike feel's guilty because she slept with Ayo's brother to conceive a child. But, should she really feel bad if all she got was pressure from her mother in law and even her own mother. Should she feel guilty about that when at every turn they tell her she's not a real woman until she conceives a child and that Ayo will leave her. No matter how many times he tells her he'll never take another wife. She was essentially forced into this situation and we even see that she gets no joy from the act, opting to remain clothed. She eventually is tormented by her grief to the point she breaks down and tells Ayo.

Ayo feels guilty because he knows the reason they can't conceive a child is because of him. He never outright states this but it's obvious he knows. He refuses to see a doctor. He doesn't want to hear anything about Adenike being unfit to carry a child or any herbal remedies to help her get pregnant. When he finds out Adenike slept with his brother he leaves her. It's the only time we hear Ayo curse at Adenike telling her "It's not fucking okay for me to take another wife, but you do this?" He tells his brother to cross the street if he ever sees him again and tells his mother that his life is not hers. His mother tells him to let it go because "It is the same blood," a line she repeated time and time again to Adenike. In the end he feels so guilty that he returns to the hospital where she is giving birth because he can't abandon her.

You should buy Darrell's Book, watch him on the Blerds Online YouTube Channel or The CP Time and Powerbomb Jutsu podcasts. 
Blerd Film Club: Mother of George (2013) Blerd Film Club: Mother of George (2013) Reviewed by Blerds Online on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 Rating: 5

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