Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer
Running Time: 121 min
Release Date: 15th September 2017
Darren Aronofsky has kept the audience speculating about MOTHER! since it’s cryptic initial poster was released, feeding only drips and drabs of what’s in store. Most known for THE WRESTLER and BLACK SWAN, Aronofsky continues his dark theme with the surreal addition of MOTHER!
The story centers around a couple seemingly living in a blissfully isolated house, that in the past was burnt down in a raging fire, and is now being diligently restored courtesy of mother (Jennifer Lawrence). Her husband, only known as Him (Javier Bardem), is a worshiped poet and author struggling with a severe writers block in an un-stimulating environment. An unexpected visitor (Ed Harris) shatters the peace by arriving unannounced one day, followed by his outspoken wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), and is offered to stay in the hopes it will reignite Him’s creativity, much to the trepidation of mother. Slowly but surely the mounting tension pushes relationships to their breaking point, as Him’s hunt for praise and glory put mother through an assault course in chaos. Ultimately the film really focuses on the price of loving someone too much and the rejection faced upon the realization that love just isn’t enough.
In all honesty, it’s nigh impossible to explain mother! without giving away everything that makes it what it is. Having seen the trailer multiple times, it seemed to nestle itself comfortably inside the horror genre, but in reality it’s far beyond your conventional horror; there are no jump scares, and no creatures that lurk in the dark. It’s surreal, uncomfortable and showcases the horror within humanity. You could argue the film cannot solely slot into one genre, because Aranofsky himself admitted that he couldn’t fully identify where his ideas for mother! came from: “Some came from the headlines we face every second of every day, some came from the endless buzzing of notifications on our smart phones, some came from living through the blackout of Hurricane Sandy in downtown Manhattan, some came from my heart, some from my gut.”
Jennifer Lawrence was on form as the cliche domestic wife, occupying her time with her passion project, but I couldn’t help but feel a Stepford Wives-esque vibe, with her perfectly carried posture (particularly in the opening scene) and competency to cook a 4 course meal in a ball gown dress, heavily pregnant and not a hair out of place. At times I felt Lawrence’s acting was too self aware and one dimensional, although perhaps this was an intentional choice for her character. Javier Bardem plays the convoluted artist struggling for inspiration, but even when we catch him in an affectionate moment with mother, it’s deceptive and empty, because Him is fundamentally a total narcissist. This becomes more and more obvious as the film progresses, as he thrives on appreciation and devotion of his fans, making mother’s opinion continually less valuable. Bardem’s interpretation of this kooky and scarily lucid character is unsettling but he plays these characters oh so well. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfieffer are a force of nature as the intruding guests, leaving destruction in their path in every scene, particularly when their sons, played by real life brothers Domhnall Gleeson and Brian Gleeson, turn up to add to the turmoil leading to tragic consequences.
MOTHER! left me on the edge of my seat and not in the way I expected it to. It managed to project on screen, what I would imagine to be, the physical representation of a relentless panic attack. While it starts slowly, leaving the audience in anticipation of whats to come, you cannot begin to imagine the direction it eventually ends up in. Each minute becomes more intense and puzzling than the last, and by the third act it feels like you’re in an entire different world all together.
However, it’s difficult to delve too deeply without treading into spoiler territory, but it made me question what exactly Aronofsky was trying to say with this film. Jennifer Lawrence’s character came across as a trophy wife, Him’s muse, then she became obsolete, and eventually disposable. She plays the outdated role of the doting younger wife who is constantly on the verge of losing everything. Is it about the monotonous circle of life? Or is he trying to show the over glorification of the male role? Perhaps he is trying to unveil the fragility of women? Even in a fraction of the posters, patches of skin are coming away from mother’s face, revealing cracks like a china doll as if to say women are frail and breakable. The underlaying message isn’t as transparent and singularly focused as imagined, and while it’s hard to pin point just one significance, it’s easy to tell that Aronofsky’s certainly trying hard to teach the audience something.
Whether this film is your cup of tea or not, it has to be seen to be believed, and brace yourself; it certainly isn’t for the fainthearted.