Mother of George

It’s easy to see why Mother of George was a Sundance hit. This second feature from Nigerian director Andrew Dosunmu, who came up as a fashion photographer, album-cover designer, and maker of music videos, clearly shows off Dosunmu’s roots. For one thing, it is highly stylish — full of vibrant, velvety textures and cinematographer Bradford Young’s artfully off-balance compositions — even if the stylishness isn’t always emotionally meaningful. For another, the movie seems so authentically Nigerian that it hovers perpetually on the verge of clunky Nollywood melodrama. Its story is quite direct: Personal and cultural strife ensues when Adenike (Danai Gurira) and Ayodele (Isaach De Bankolé), a newly married Nigerian couple living in Brooklyn, find themselves unable to conceive a child. But the real richness is at the level of subtext: Darci Picoult’s spare, sensitive script prioritizes muted intimacies, and Dosunmu’s airy pace allows for many fine nonverbal moments. Gurira smartly pushes back against the film’s tendency toward too-precious exoticism, and De Bankolé digs deep enough to get beyond his Jarmuschian cool. We’re warmly invited in to Adenike and Ayodele’s world, only to discover with a chill how difficult it is for them to live there — how displaced, for various reasons, they can’t help but feel.