mother! is a vulnerable work of art from a vulnerable director. His most recent director credit before this was Noah, which was a film that was widely liked by both audiences and critics, but started conversations within Hollywood about “white washing”.
A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence. From filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream), mother! stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem (among others) in this riveting psychological thriller about love, devotion and sacrifice.
You may notice the official synopsis is vague and doesn’t really give you any sense of what kind of movie you’d be walking into if you were to watch this film. There are no names either and that’s entirely on purpose. This is not a film that you go to for plot or anything typical of a film released in the modern age. That’s because it’s not a film. It’s a metaphor, a poem captured into moving images and sounds. I realize that may sound like I’ve been smoking too much pot (I don’t) or that I have completely lost my marbles. I assure you, I haven’t. This film is just a very what I like to call “heady”. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey, if you’re not analyzing every single picture within, you are highly likely to miss out on a key piece of information that will help you realize why this story needs to be told in this format.
During the course of this review, I will not mention the actors starring besides Bardem or Lawrence, Ed Harris or Michelle Pfeiffer or anything but the themes the movie puts forth in the initial conflict as to not ruin the surprise and because this a movie that is not easily reviewed without spoiling.
The stranger (Ed Harris) runs into Bardem and Lawrence on a simple misunderstanding that their home is a bed & breakfast and turns to leave before Bardem asks him to stay the night, clearly against his wife’s wishes. Michelle Pfeiffer arrives the next day with no notice or explanation, again to his wife’s chagrin. He simply wants to seek inspiration from these people and he thinks she doesn’t get why this could be such a big deal for him.
As the strangers get acclimated to their new vacation spot, we see the strangers speak about Lawrence like she isn’t even there. They know she loves Bardem, but neither are showing that throughout their daily routine. Lawrence’s presence is felt throughout every inch of this house, but her work is diminished at every turn.
Aronofsky appreciates her work, though. He makes sure that you feel (thanks to the wonderful Dolby Atmos mix) every creak in the floorboards, the thunderous fireplace and the unbraced sink. This movie is a classic tale of having absolutely no control of a situation and how extreme that can become. It’s an attack against her – sometimes emotionally, sometimes literally.
This is a world that can only exist in the deepest recesses of your nightmares. A glance could be wayward one minute and gleeful the next. A simple creak could be someone lurking around the corner. My advice would be just sit in that horror – especially after the credits roll.
Once again, praise be to Darren Aronofsky’s directing capabilities. Every movement of the camera is precise and purposeful. The perspective of space and how it’s used in this film is absolutely incredible. I don’t think I can say this quite enough, but I think Aronofsky (along with this film) is one of the underrated gems of the past year.
mother! is utterly fascinating. It’s setting does come off a wee bit ridiculous at times, but that’s sometimes required of a piece of art. If you need reasons to watch it, look no further than the images included and the metaphors of what art means. That said, I have heard from friends who have seen this didn’t read it the same way I did and that they didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought they would.