Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Reviewed by Brandon Bishop, 10-1-2017
“I want to thank you for your hospitality.”
mother! is the newest film from Darren Aronofsky, director of great works such as Black Swan (2010) and Requiem for a Dream (2000). Aronofsky is known for this thematically complex, often disturbing work, that raises as many questions as it does answers. His films have garnered acclaim as well as controversy and even confusion. mother! is no different.
The film depicts the home life of a couple, played by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, who live alone in a huge house. The house is in disrepair after a fire and Lawrence’s character works diligently on revitalizing it for her husband, who is a poet suffering from writer’s block. They lead a simple existence, which is complicated when a stranger, played by Ed Harris, and his wife, played by Michelle Pfeipfer, enter their lives.
What follows is a disturbing roller coaster of a film that most viewers will not be prepared for. mother! sets out with a singular artistic vision that is ingrained in the film from Aronofsky’s first pen stroke in its writing, to the end of the credits. That simple fact, that an auteur in 2017 is given the freedom to unflinchingly execute a work such as mother! without interference, is astonishing on its own. Start to finish, the film clearly has a statement to tell, and while some may not catch onto it, the film follows that statement to the letter without hesitation. The visual design of the film serves that vision in every shot, to a fault. The ride doesn’t always satisfy, but it certainly shocks.
The film follows the point of view of Lawrence’s character so closely and relentlessly that its at times disorienting. That disorientation may be intentional, but it’s frustrating at times. Nearly every shot in the film is a close up on Lawrence, either of her face or over her shoulder to share her point of view. Even in the rare moments that the film takes a step back to show us a wide, it does so to show us some aspect of her character’s emotional state. The film never hesitates to remind us that this is the story of this woman.
Lawrence and Bardem both deliver admirable performances. Aronofsky’s writing gives them difficult roles to portray, but they do well with the material. Some audiences will not do so well with it, however. This film will require some contemplation afterwards, which is often a great thing. Unfortunately, some of that contemplation will likely lead to the conclusion that the film goes for shock for the purpose of shock value. The film works best in its first half where its hidden agenda stays subtle. The remainder of the film, while horrifying, can struggle to satisfy.
Aronofsky attempts to mess with your head and toy with your emotions to varying degrees of success. mother! may leave some with a bad taste and a twitching brain. However, it must be said, that whether or not you buy into the film’s allegory or enjoy the experience, Aronofsky admirably adheres to his vision thoroughly and completely, resulting in a film that may confuse you, but you’ll definitely remember it.