Depending on the eye of the beholder, Gia is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. But her love is undeniable, compelling her to try and find a solution. This world of crushing expectations, down to earth but spotlighted by Leaf’s storytelling, sets the stage for a film that quietly but vividly spins a narrative of Black womanhood and strength against the odds.
The profundity of “Earth Mama” is carried from screen to soul with piercing silences; the film’s sound design is commanding in its restraint. A great percentage of the film is so quiet, whether in true silence or dialed-back ambient noise, that such aural unfamiliarity punches with full force. Gia’s distractions are what’s afforded noise, rowdy neighbors, or gatherings for cars doing donuts, but these moments are fleeting. She is surrounded by quiet in any moment of emotional bearing, whether solo or in conversation, allowing the script’s incredible dialogue to demand center stage.
“Earth Mama”’s muted energy is further supported by its cinematography’s homemade quality. Nuance forms the core of “Earth Mama” and is conveyed by restrained dream sequences that portray womanhood at its most stripped down, with social ties and contexts completely severed. Whether Gia is slowly walking through the forest, her naked pregnant body amid true nature, or standing in front of a mirror, pulling her rotting umbilical cord from her body, both depict a pure animalism that is awe-inspiring in its beauty and gore.
Leaf’s close-ups are equally as poignant as the film’s silence. They insert us into Gia’s interiority, highlighting the delicate details of expression and the female form. “Earth Mama” thrusts the viewer into unforgiving empathy, to feel every beat of Gia’s heart as it races and stalls with the weight of her circumstances. Generational trauma born from the responsibilities of motherhood in the cycle of economic oppression is a cornerstone of the story. Equally potent is the inherited battle of a mother’s love versus her child’s resentment under these circumstances. As this web of emotions is spun, Gia and the other women in her circle find that in their adulthood, their roles have reversed. Now, they are on the other side of the table.