out of five
Beautifully-photographed, lyrical film by debut director David Gordon Green – definitely a talent to watch.
Debut director David Gordon Green was just 24 years old when he made George Washington, which finally receives a release here after winning critical acclaim on the festival circuit last year.
The film is a lyrical look at the lives of a group of children from Winston-Salem, a poverty-stricken North Carolina backwater and comes across as a sort of ‘Terrence Malick shoots Gummo’ – indeed, Green freely admits the influence of Malick, in particular the photography of Days of Heaven.
There isn’t really a plot, as such, despite the fact that the summer’s
events include an accidental death and the hiding of a corpse.
The centre of the film is the narrator, twelve-year-old Nasia (Candace Evanofski), who, at the beginning of the film, dumps her boyfriend Buddy for his friend George (Holden), a serious-minded boy who has to wear a football helmet because of a skull deformity and yearns to be a superhero.
The film follows these characters and their friends as they hang out in disused railway yards or barren wastelands, all of which are sumptuously shot by cinematographer Tim Orr.
George Washington is not, as you will have gathered, your typical film about childhood. There’s no tie-in soundtrack and the kids aren’t the hip, pop-culture-aware, smart-mouthed kids of other movies. They are black kids and white kids with one thing in common – their poverty, and they are heart-breakingly aware of what this means to their lives.
This, then, is a different kind of film, and one whose slow, quiet pace is entirely appropriate. Green has also coaxed some splendid performances from his child actors, all from non-acting backgrounds. (They were encouraged to improvise, but also told not to swear, which works surprisingly well).
In short, this is well worth seeking out. A gorgeously-shot, thoughtful
meditation on childhood and growing up in a poor area, this marks David
Gordon Green out as a talent to watch. Recommended.