Earth Mama is a beautiful film and powerful character study about the sort of person that society judges daily yet rarely makes any effort to understand. Photo courtesy of Film4 Productions

Film Review: Earth Mama

Film Reviews

Earth Mama
Director: Savanah Leaf

Film4 Productions
In Theaters: 07.28

You might be feeling a little burned out from all of the pink mushroom clouds and fallout from the Barbenhemier experience. If you’re looking for something that’s not quite so loud or so sparkly, indie drama Earth Mama is an ideal alternative.

Earth Mama stars Oakland underground rapper Tia Nomore as Gia, a young, Black single mother living in the Bay area who will soon give birth to her third child. Gia is carrying the weight of the world along with the weight of the baby, facing responsibilities and pressure coming at her from every side. Two of Gia’s kids have already been placed in foster care, and she’s trying to juggle court-ordered parenting classes, drug addiction, recovery meetings and long work hours in order to provide a home for her children.. As the baby’s due date approaches, Gia must prepare herself for the likelihood that this child will be taken away from her as well. When the option to put the child up for adoption is placed before Gia, she must process what’s best for her child, what will make her life easier and, ultimately, which choice she can live with forever.

Earth Mama is writer/director Savanah Leaf’s feature debut adapting from her own short film, The Heart Still Hums. Earth Mama is a compelling and moving feature—it’s the sort of quiet, unassuming film that requires your full attention, though it’s not hard to make that investment. Leaf hooks you within minutes, and the reality-grounded drama is an almost immersive experience, as we follow Gia through the trials and  of her everyday life. There’s a lot of artistry yet little artifice on display, as Leaf favors long takes and captures real-life moments in each scene, and the script often emphasizes what remains unspoken rather than relying on splashy dialogue. 

Earth Mama is filled with powerful imagery, whether it’s the ultrasound of the baby or Gia imagining herself still pregnant, walking naked through an idyllic paradise, escaping into fantasy while unable to leave reality fully behind. Jody Lee Lipes’ (Manchester By the Sea) cinematography manages to find a certain elegance in drab, muted colors, allowing Gia’s dreary and oppressive world to show moments of sublime beauty. 

Nomore is sensational as Gia, so much so that my jaw dropped at the discovery that she has no other acting credits to her name. Her raw and sensitive performance demands our attention, even if Gia herself would just as soon she wasn’t constantly  be watched by so many people. Erika Alexander (Get Out) is sympathetic and commanding as Miss Carmen, the social worker determined to help Gia figure things out, and Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Enola Holmes 2) is so inherently lovable and sincere as Monica, a woman wants to adopt Gia’s child, that I found myself rooting for her as strongly as I was for Gia.

Earth Mama is a beautiful film and powerful character study about the sort of person that society judges daily yet rarely makes any effort to understand or appreciate. Leaf and Nomore couldn’t ask for a more solid debut, and while Earth Mama will be the first experience moviegoers have with either, it’s certainly not going to be the last one. –Patrick Gibbs

Read reviews of indie dramas:
Film Review: Farewelling
Film Review: Isip The Warrior