B for Boy (London Film Festival 2013)
Set in Nigeria, B for Boy is a simple story that’s even more shocking through the matter-of-fact acceptance of difficult circumstances. The country’s social landscape demands women give birth to a boy in order to pass on male genes – a conceit Hollywood would probably treat as a comedy starring Paul Rudd. However, B for Boy portrays the biological tightrope with heartbreaking realism; the difference between keeping and losing an otherwise loyal husband.
Amaka (Uche Nwadili) is the protagonist: a 39-year-old mother with a daughter and husband (Nonso Odogwu). When a doctor informs her of a stillbirth and the likelihood she’ll never conceive again, her mother-in-law suggests the husband should find a second wife who can continue the family heritage. It doesn’t take long for the suggestion to be unveiled as a threat.
The family’s politics are disconcerting on their own, especially viewing as a male Westerner unaccustomed to the pressure of delivering a son. Chika Anadu, the director and screenwriter, distils the sadness with weighted silences and minimalist shots; the walls are blank, the camera trembles.
On top of a moving central performance, Amaka represents the eternal mother than exists in Western culture, making ugly sacrifices in secret to maintain her family. Just because it’s not as glamorous as Heisenberg’s meth dealing in Breaking Bad, underlying patriarchal philosophies transcend nations; the mother-in-law says she’s not a villain, but someone who prioritises her son’s wellbeing.
B for Boy taps into the fragile psyche of motherhood’s template, transported to an environment underrepresented in cinema. Considering the deft performances, measured direction and pathos-led atmosphere, this is one social commentary with more self-reflection than expected.
B For Boy is making its world premiere as part of the London Film Festival’s “First Feature Competition” strand. Screening information can be found here.
114 mins approx