Him (Javier Bardem) is a poet struggling to find inspiration and step back into the spotlight who’s said to have lost “everything” in a terrible fire. Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) is his selfless young wife who’s dedicated to make him happy with her unconditional support and by making their home a “paradise”. One day, a stranger (Ed Harris) shows up on the doorstep of their isolated, imposing Victorian house after mistaking it for a B&B. Surprised by her husband’s decision to let him stay over “as long as he wants”, the woman will try, as best as she can, to accept it. What she doesn’t know yet, is that the visitor’s irritating, nosy wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) is about to join the unpleasant little house warming party, marking the beginning of a massive, horrific invasion spiraling out of control…
With Mother!, Darren Aronofsky’s filmography welcomes a new unsettling, thought-provoking, ultra-ambitious piece of work. But comparing the movie to Black Swan or even Requiem for a Dream would be unfairly diminishing the extent of Mother!‘s intended impact.
A film that will make you feel uncomfortable from start to finish (especially finish…), the picture, despite conveying a strong, paramount message, will nevertheless not delight all audiences – and maybe that’s the point.
A Metaphorical Tale With Lots of Layers
What makes Darren Aronofsky such a gifted director is that he understands, unlike too many Hollywood moneymakers filmmakers today, that art, no matter its form, is open to interpretation. Mother!‘s story “is layer upon layer of metaphorical subtext.” It is “a film of fierce and idiosyncratic intensity, a metaphor for subjects both vast and banal: on the one hand, gender roles, creativity, birth, and (as Aronofsky himself has attested) global warming; on the other, the symbiotic interplay between fandom and celebrity,” intertwined with “biblical allusions” throughout.
A complex and powerful visual tale, Mother! is a a “grandiose and self-aggrandizing” artistic tour de force. Without doubt the director’s most ambitious film to date.
Not for Everyone
Most importantly, Mother! aims “not so much to entertain as to infect.” After all, “Aronofsky doesn’t make movies to help you feel better about yourself and the world. He’s a cinematic virtuoso […] on a mission to probe and provoke.” Demanding, with “a lot to take in,” the film, a continuous series of WTF sequences “shot with a surrealist’s eye for madness and destruction,” “gradually spins out into a phantasmagoric horror show,” which makes it “certain to be revered by some and reviled by others.”
While many will consider it enlightening and necessarily provoking, others might simply see it as a hard-to-watch, pretentious pile of over-the-top “nonsense.” Be warned, then: Mother! is “likely to be the love-it-or-hate-it movie of the season.”
Jennifer Lawrence as We’ve Rarely Seen Her
Famous for being a fierce, uncompromising actress, Jennifer Lawrence gets her popular image purposely shattered in Mother!. As much as it pains to watch her portraying such a passive, powerless character, the actress’s “groundedness and humanity […] tether her director’s wilder fancies.” But although Lawrence is “clearly the star of the movie […], there’s something about the role that doesn’t quite fit her,” which feels like wasting “the quality that usually makes her such a powerhouse screen presence.” Then again, maybe that’s all intentional.
Best quotes from the reviews:
“By rights it should have more exclamation points, a hundred even.” – David Edelstein, Vulture
“You won’t know what hit you.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
“At its core a movie about the Worst House Guests Ever.” – Christopher Orr, The Atlantic
“Some will no doubt find all of its flash and portent to be deep and provocative. Others will roll their eyes, toss up their hands, and find it to be slick, ridiculous nonsense. Those in the second camp won’t be wrong.” – Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly