Earth Mama

Earth Mama
Earth Mama
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A really cool, sympathetic movie about Earth Mama is the first work of director Savanna Leaf and a great chance for Tia Nomore to show off her skills. For an absence of linear narrative linearity it has strong thematic elements that go through this horrible situation where young black women have found themselves in society.

Gia (Tia Nomore) stars as Gia, a young black lady who is pregnant with her third child after having two of them taken into foster care. The movie chronicles Gia’s final month of pregnancy as she fights to regain custody of her children while contemplating the fate of the unborn baby – whether to keep or give it up for adoption so as to afford him/her better opportunities. This film was directed by Savanna Leaf, also responsible for screenwriting, adapting from her own short film The Heart Still Hums co-written with Taylor Russell: an Escape Room star.

The film premiered at Sundance Film Festival and was bought by A24. A directorial vision that belies Leaf’s 29 years is seen on Earth Mama. It feels like a seasoned professional’s hand due to careful shot selection and precise editing that has been meticulously crafted into each scene. One scene where the lines between reality and dream are blurred stands out as especially nightmarish; considering certain horror films that came out during this year, it will likely be the most shocking one yet. Celine Song’s Past Lives, Michael B Jordan’s Creed III and Leaf’s Earth Mama are all debut feature films by first-time directors this year.

She is not only the protagonist but also outshines in many instances throughout the movie which makes her stand out. She gave an amazing performance with strength exuding from every pore in her body. Throughout most of the film she plays herself like she would any other role. Some may see this as stilted acting and poor performing but there is more to acting than merely displaying different emotions in a movie (Brad Pitt’s performance in 12 Monkeys and Bill Murray’s in Broken Flowers, for instance, are very one-note yet highly regarded). Additionally, it is consistent with the character and tone of the movie it also feels right for the life that Gia leads.

By God she’s just 24 years old and has two young kids, she had to grow up real fast. It wasn’t as if she was given chances others get; nope she has been out here on her own trying to survive fighting non-stop all the time. There are moments when she is alone and quietly reflecting about how regardless of how much effort she puts into anything, just because of her race, class and circumstances of birth the system is stacked against her.

The system that accuses but does not offer any single real opportunity for getting out from this situation seems hypocritical. This is majorly about punishment and isolation more than anything else. The portrayal of Gia by Nomore is nuanced which helps establish some hope regarding her future career on the big screen.

Another person who should get a mention is cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes. Cinematographer has established himself as a go-to eye for intimate character work. Whether it’s Trainwreck, Manchester by the Sea or A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, all these movies have moments where their frames, lights and composition are just lightly touching us. Earth Mama is shot on grainy and soft 16mm film stock which gives it that beautiful candid visual aesthetic. It creates a touch that is both reassuring and delicate like the protagonist about to break down.

Many films have dealt with children living in poverty or whose parents are drug addicts. However, most of those stories seen through the eyes of a child. However, Earth Mama looks at her mother and how being a parent means not only having kids but also fearing for life when you know that your baby will be born soon.

However, having two children already is no joke either because it certainly does not make things easier. What does this mean for mothers? That said, what constitutes looking after one’s child? Is giving one’s child away due to lack of resources an indication of weakness or doing the right thing morally speaking? Earth Mama would instead ask personal questions one might not answer easily; it never tries to determine any single moral aspect in this complex matter but rather pinpoints its character’s predicaments.

When making movies about drug addiction or poverty there is always a fine line to walk. On one hand, they could be seen as too glib regarding their subject if taken too far in one direction while on the other hand veering too much towards melodrama might lead them into after-school special territory. Fortunately Leaf directing and Nomore acting save this from becoming unreal and thus keep everything very true.

There isn’t any big showy dramatic speech for Namore which would be expected from this type of movie as not only would that clash with Earth Mama’s naturalistic tone but also her character. The emotional moment towards the end of the movie, when the pressure gets too much for Gia, is one of a defeated cry. After trying so hard, one mistake (be it a big one) is now all that matters. All the hard work and progress now means nothing because, sadly, all that matters to the system is where one stumbles.

Earth Mama is not your typical summer film. It may not be an enjoyable alternative to huge blockbuster spectacles; however, it is a down-to-earth deep character portrait with touching performances and a sympathetic heart. Moreover, it hopes to inspire more compassion among its audiences for those who battle against institutions that deny them chances to thrive. Hopefully Earth Mama will mark beginning of such an exciting career for everyone involved in this project.

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