mother! | Darren Aronofsky | September 15th, 2017
Darren Aronofsky’s film repertoire could be classified with one single adjective – intense. I have seen all of his films (besides Noah), and most of them are well-made, well-acted, and ultimately overwhelming. I’ve never watched any of his films twice. Aronofsky makes movies that intend to cut you, at least on an emotional level. Even when I’ve hated some of his films, I still respect what he was going for. He definitely doesn’t hold back, and it’s impressive that he’s been able to create such respected yet reviled films. mother! is no different, and it might be my favorite film he’s ever done.
The hype around mother! in the past few days has been more from its F rating on Cinemascore. I can totally understand how this happened. mother! was advertised as a home invasion horror movie. If regular moviegoers did a little more research on who directed this movie, they might have not been as surprised with the result. While, on the surface, it has elements of a horror movie, it most definitely is not. The entire film is one giant metaphor. I won’t go into what the metaphor is, but about a quarter of the way though the film, it suddenly clicked for me. This is essentially a re-telling of a famous, world-renowned book. Knowing these stories is key to understanding mother!.
mother! starts off feeling like a standard psychological horror film. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a married couple living in a secluded country house. Bardem’s character is a famous poet struggling with writers’ block after his last work. Lawrence is his muse and is also fixing up the entire house by herself. One afternoon, a man played by Ed Harris shows up at their door. He has mistaken their home as a quaint bed and breakfast. Soon, his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up. The couple starts to break down and question Bardem and Lawrence’s relationship.
Throughout the entire first act of mother!, there is a huge sense of unease. Aronofsky puts Jennifer Lawrence into focus, and her reactions towards her new house guests are understandable. Aronofsky does a great job of making the audience feel exactly how Jennifer Lawrence’s mother character feels. Harris and Pfeiffer are rude, prying, overwhelming house guests, and the anxiety never lets up. Over the next hour and a half, mother! turns into one of the strangest and most intense movies of all time.
More and more guests start to arrive at the country house, and then the last 45 minutes explode into a horrifying fever dream. It literally feels like Aronofsky went into someone’s head and filmed an out of control nightmare. Things escalate insanely fast. Locations shift, breathe, explode, and characters pop up or disappear randomly. By the time the finale escalated to 100, I knew where this was going. I was hoping that it wouldn’t actually cross a line, but it does. Oh my God, it crosses a line. I would have loved to see this in a more crowded screening, just to hear the audience reaction. It Comes at Night had similar reactions this year for being a movie marketed as something else.
mother! is a home invasion movie in a literal sense, but the underlying themes are so grandiose that it is able to tell a huge story in under two hours. Time is fast and loose in this movie. mother! has no patience for you to catch up. I hate using the cliched “roller coaster ride” to describe a movie, but mother! is the most deserving of this statement. It’s an experience that makes you appreciate some of the age-old tales of human nature. If taken into modern times and given a more literal meaning, so many old stories could be translated this way. God damn, that would be terrifying.
The performances here are top notch. Everyone is giving their A-game. Jennifer Lawrence is unnaturally muted during the first half. She is a stable and supportive housewife, with hardly a bad word to say. Which is why it’s so satisfying to see her character literally go crazy and start doling out blood-curdling screams and vengeance towards the end of the movie. There is one scene that will be surely talked about for years to come involving her baby. It was one of the most disturbing sequences I’ve seen in a long time. What makes it even more disturbing is how true the final act is in its adaptation of the source material. It takes a more literal approach, but it still rings true, which makes it all the more horrifying.
Javier Bardem plays an aloof and egotistical husband well. It makes all the sense in the world when we finally realize who his character is really supposed to represent. mother! is as unique of a film you’ll ever see. Even with it borrowing from a source, it still is able to make a story completely it’s own. It might be one of the best metaphorical stories to ever be captured on film. It’s also the only Aronofsky film I’ve ever wanted to watch again, immediately. If that’s not a gleaming recommendation, I don’t know what is.