“George Washington” (2000) is a film unlike most others. It’s not a movie that is reliant on the general consensus that a narrative needs to follow a direct line, always heading toward a predictable conclusion. In fact there is little in this film that is predictable. “George Washington” can more easily be related to a work of art, hanging on the wall with the purpose of drawing in its spectators to see what kind of emotions can be evoked.
The almost unimportant plot revolves around a group of young children living in an impoverished American town somewhere in the South. There is a running narration from one character, Nasia (Candace Evanofski), as she tells a story about four of her friends. Buddy (Curtis Cotton III) is her former boyfriend, but she has since moved on to the quieter, more reclusive George (Donald Holden). Buddy, George, Sonya (Rachel Handy), and Vernon (Damian Jewan Lee) are goofing around one day when a tragic and fatal accident occurs. The remainder of the film focuses on how the three surviving children cope with the guilt and devastation of the incident.
There is beauty in many aspects of this film, although in order to uncover it the right mindset is needed. Director David Gordon Green is obviously influenced by filmmaker extraordinaire Terence Malick, and you can see Green’s attempt to emulate the voice-over narration that Malick is now famous for using in all of his films. Combine this fact with some of the most color-rich, visually moving cinematography (Tim Orr) that you will ever find, and the result is a “Malick impression” if you will- and one that works. There is a profound intensity to the film that is both oddly disturbing and extremely intimate. It’s hard to get comfortable while watching, but almost impossible to look away. He is able to find beauty in unorthodox places- a pile of garbage, a dying snake, an abandoned rail yard, or even an old empty bathroom. Unusual, perhaps to say, but some people see what others do not, and in “George Washington” the director and cinematographer take the time to share the world to their audience, as seen through their eyes.
The cast, mostly made up of inexperienced children actors, seem real, as if they didn’t even know they were being filmed. There is a genuine authenticity in their eyes that shows a glimpse of their thoughts and fears at every turn. It is amazing to see this group of youngsters take their characters in and fully express the harshness of their reality to the audience, especially considering how unusually the film is pieced together.
“George Washington” is a film that won’t satisfy everyone. It’s unique, stylish, and different from the day in day out filmmaking that is often done. The time, however, of not just watching but partaking in the experience that is “George Washington” is one that will leave an impression not soon to escape one’s mind.