Earth Mama, which offers a crucial reminder that a sense of style needn’t be ornamental and a sense of form needn’t be abstract. In the process, she reinvigorates one of the basic elements of movies, the closeup, and restores its centrality as the beating heart of the cinema.
The story takes place at a crucial intersection of intimate life and public policy. It’s set in Oakland and stars the rapper Tia Nomore, in her first movie role, as Gia Wilson, a twenty-four-year-old mother of two young children, Trey (Ca’Ron Coleman) and Shaynah (Alexis Rivas). The kids are in the foster-care system as a result of Gia’s drug addiction (she’s in recovery), and she can see them only in supervised visits of an hour per week. Gia works part time at a photo studio, and is eager to work more hours to earn more money and improve her household circumstances, but she’s prevented from doing so by the labyrinthine schedule of courses, training sessions, and therapy meetings that the child-welfare office mandates as part of her effort to regain custody. Gia is pregnant, and, because she’s deemed unable to provide a stable home environment, she’s at risk of losing custody of her third child, too.