Overview: George Washington follows a group of kids through a summer living in their impoverished rural southern hometown. It is the feature film debut of writer and director David Gordon Green. Cowboy Pictures/Janus Films. 2000. Unrated. 90 Minutes.
The Setting: It could be argued that the key storytelling tool and narrative centerpiece in George Washington is the small, desolate town in which the events occur. Cinematographer Tim Orr captures the depressive feel of the area with a raw and honest camera. He lingers on destitute and depreciated images of the town, while a secondary character narrates and provides voiceover to some scenes (an observable influence from Terrence Malick films that Green himself readily confesses). These sequences succeed in stripping the third wall from the viewing. The viewer quickly feels immersed in the movie as scenes feel more like surroundings. The film is mostly set in the summer and with Orr’s intimate technique the viewer can feel the humidity in the picture.
The Kids: The child actors who portray the group of kids give exceptional performances—exceptional not just for child actors, but exceptional for the standard of the craft. What is even more impressive is that almost all of the actors were non-professional and hand-picked by David Gordon Green.
Watch This Movie If: You like Terrence Malick films or thoughtful, expressive cinema.
Home Video Options: This film is available in the Criterion Collection (Spine #152). The dual-format Blu-ray/DVD notably features a restored high-definition digital transfer, audio commentary with Green, Orr, and actor Paul Schneider, and two short films Green made as a film student (one of which served as the inspiration for George Washington).
Final Thoughts: George Washington is a beautiful film that presents its setting and story with a fresh, authentic eye. It’s not only a noteworthy feature debut by Green; it’s a remarkable film by all standards.