A pregnancy drama that breathes life.
A 24-year-old mother with two kids in foster care and a baby on the way struggles to make ends meets with her limited hours and various appointments, to the point of her stealing someone else’s diapers in their stroller. She keeps walking, even though people say “Excuse me,” and she escapes in her car before she can get in deeper trouble. It’s a struggle that’s impossible for me to grasp (because I’m obviously a guy. Duh!), but it does represent a difficult reality in “Earth Mama.”
It can be radiant with its shots of the young mother holding a baby like he/she was her own, and her walking in the forest with her pregnant body. And it can also be passionate in its portrayal of a broken system that puts her in a difficult position. Writer/director Savanah Leaf (who based this film on the documentary short film “The Heart Still Hums” she made with Taylor Russell) makes that quite clear to us. It makes you feel bad for the main heroine and her troubles, and it also makes you curious about how she’ll be able to withstand the outcome.
The young pregnant woman is named Gia (Oakland rapper Tia Nomore), and her former drug addictions have placed her kids (Ca’Ron Jaden Coleman and Alexis Rivas) in foster care until she can convince the judge she can be a fit mother. She has so many struggles, regarding her work hours, her addition recovery meetings, and dodging the Child Protective Services who are poised to take her upcoming newborn.
Where is the father (or fathers) of these kids? Who knows? But when we see her at her pregnancy support groups, we can hear the emotions from the other pregnant mothers. Although, Gia is criticized for not speaking out.
At this rate, her best bet is to give her kids up for adoption. But she doesn’t want to do that just yet. In the meantime, she meets the would-be foster parents (Bokeem Woodbine and Sharon Duncan-Brewster), who were lucky enough to have one daughter (Kamaya Jones) in their youth.
Her friend Trina (Doechii) is also pregnant, and refuses to give up on her upcoming baby. And these two have a falling out when she finds out Gia may or may not put her unborn baby up for adoption.
The scenes with her two kids are poignant enough to represent a certain kind of tones. The boy Trey (Coleman) is able to communicate with his mom more than the girl Shaynah (Rivas).
I may not understand everything that goes on in the story, but I do see these characters and their environments, and Leaf paints “Earth Mama” like a portrait. One that represents an addict transitioning into a struggling young mother trying to prove her worth to her kids, especially since she never received the same love and care in her own youth. I’ve never heard of Nomore or any of her music, but she vibrates the screen with genuine magnetism. It’s a role that pushes herself to new limits. And her scenes with the kid actors, plus Doechii, Woodbine, and Duncan-Brewster are full of heart and truth.
Addictions of any kind and young mothers don’t mix, especially by today’s standards. Some people are not lucky or smart enough to get out of their messes. And some of us can’t acknowledge the hardships inside them. Seeing this movie will really test your senses, and you admire the look and feel of it.
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This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes.