I think it’s best to go into a movie as blind as possible. That was my thinking with Darren Aronofsky’s latest film: “mother!” (sic.). I knew that this film could lead to many discussions among film critics. And, like most of Aronofsky’s films, “mother!” doesn’t exactly leave you wanting to run towards a rainbow when it’s over.
A young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) and her husband (Javier Bardem) live a tranquil life at their country home, until uninvited guests arrive at their home.
Aronofsky is a filmmaker that can really do one of two things with his ingenious films: cause controversy, or make people think as he pushes the limits of filmmaking. Anytime he releases a new film under his own name, there’s a chance it could get a lot of people excited. Excellent examples of this hype include “Requiem for a Dream,” “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan” (my personal favorite and, in my opinion, his cinematic masterpiece). But going in, I didn’t want to know anything about this film. I’d only seen the first trailer with Lawrence walking around and knew only the basic plot synopsis. And, after it was over, “mother!” left me with an expression on my face that could be compared to Mark Wahlberg’s confused face in “The Happening”.
From the interpretations of the plot and/or trailers that I’d heard, it seemed to me that nearly everybody was going into this expecting it to have a straightforward horror vibe. It really doesn’t. It’s more psychological, and in a way that’s very unexpected. Because of this, it will make a lot of people confused about the film’s marketing. Not that I was thinking this was going to be just any horror movie, because I know Aronofsky’s style. Even when it tried to emulate something like “Rosemary’s Baby”, that mood shifts into something else entirely.
The performances aren’t really that bad. This is the best performance Lawrence has given in a while. Even though the last couple movies she’s been in really didn’t look like she was given much opportunity to prove herself, I never harped on her for simply being who she is. But in “mother!,” Lawrence was given a lot of range, with many moments with her involved. I wouldn’t be shocked if she gets an Oscar nomination.
Bardem, as per the usual, is captivating. He and Lawrence worked well together, which is good for the two main characters to be able to do. And Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer as the couple who first came into their home were good, for the time they had on screen.
Some sources claim Aronofsky wrote the script in five days. He wanted to write about how the world is being treated, with chaos spreading throughout. He noticed there isn’t a lot of hope to be found here. Did he have some weird fever dream and wanted to show us in a cinematic way? Possibly. I won’t go into spoilers, but Aronofsky definitely uses a lot of metaphorical and allegorical imagery throughout. The film has some biblical messages, including a reference to Cain and Abel, and some things referring to Earth and society as a whole.
Most of his directing leans on both sides of the coin. This is a well-shot movie, with bleak cinematography showing that kind of constant tension that can make someone feel really uneasy. The filmmaking has a really antiquated look. But on the other hand, the constant tight close-ups of Lawrence’s face and back of her head, along with long tracking shots, just get annoying. We all know she’s beautiful, but that doesn’t mean we need 89 percent of the shots just on her. The first half wasn’t bad, but as the second act started to progress, something didn’t sit right with me. Just when it’s leading to the third act, honestly, it made the film painfully ridiculous, and almost made me hate the film entirely just seeing how Aronofsky treated and conveyed the message he was going for.
Films like “mother!” will get people to go into in-depth analysis to learn what it’s all about, and search for the real purpose of what the film represents. It made a little sense, as I kind of knew what Aronofsky was going for, but it could’ve been handled better overall and progressed in a mesmerizing way. Having that replay factor of trying to figure out what a certain scene means won’t make a difference, even if my opinion changes in the future.
This certainly isn’t a movie for everybody out there. Many people will absolutely adore this, and will think it’s one of the best of the year, while the other side will say that this is the most pretentious thing ever made. From my perspective, it’s very lukewarm. In the end, mother! tried its hardest to be fascinating, with a story that has deeper implications, but some viewers won’t appreciate what it will all mean by the time the credits roll. This film is like a complicated relationship: There are some intriguing aspects of that person, but always some things that aren’t right.
“mother!” will be considered another masterpiece in Darren Aronofsky’s filmography for some, but for others, very polarizing.