George Washington marks the stunning debut of David Gordon Green, 24, a writer and director of rare grace and feeling. The plot has nothing to do with our bewigged first president. George (Donald Holden) is a thirteen-year-old black boy living in a multiethnic town in North Carolina. He hangs with a handful of friends around a rusted-out railroad station. The film is narrated by Nasia (Candace Evanofski) in a style that evokes the Linda Manz voice-over in Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven. Nasia, who has just broken up with Buddy (Curtis Cotton III), sees quiet George as a romantic hero. It's a sharp contrast to the relationship between beefy Vernon (Damian Jewan Lee) and Sonya (Rachael Handy), a blond twig of a girl who helps Vernon steal a car. During a game, one of the kids is accidentally killed. A decision is made to hide the body, and Green focuses on how that decision affects the lives of the kids. Using nonprofessional actors and mostly improvised dialogue, Green creates a dreamlike evocation of youth — the delicacy of Ted Orr's widescreen camerawork is extraordinary — that is shattered by a pressing need for maturity. At times, the film recalls River's Edge and Kids as well as Days of Heaven, but, in essence, Green has created a work of startling originality that will haunt you for a good, long time.
From The Archives Issue 327: October 2, 1980