Darren Aronofsky has become a stalwart of complex themes bursting at subconscious seams with metaphor and symbolism throughout his impressive career. His darkly brutal handling of vivid despondency and ardent intentions has made his voice one of the most uniquely inspiring and eclectic in contemporary film. mother! has seemingly hit a crescendo of its director’s now-iconic stylization; blending elements from all of his previous works into a cacophony of screaming nerves and bleeding hearts. Multiple viewings and discussions of the feature may not be enough to parse the wellspring of sentiment and allusion that Aronofsky and company manages to evoke.
The daily life of Him (Javier Bardem, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”) and Mother (Jennifer Lawrence, “Passengers”) inside their secluded home acts as the central focal point. Bardem is an acclaimed poet struggling with writer’s block, and Lawrence (as his wife) is in the process of meticulously reconstructing his previous home room by room, doting on him as she also evidently idolizes his work to a degree. When an uninvited man (Ed Harris, “Run All Night”) and his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer, “Dark Shadows”) arrive at their home, their pacific life is flipped on its ear in starkly barbarous fashion. Though this plot setup has been played before (“Straw Dogs,” “House on the Edge of the Park”), this is where the expected comes to an end. The film dives headfirst into possible themes and archetypes that could be critical of religious dogma, the creative process, the ideals of motherhood and parenting, the dangers in repressing desire, even a revision on creation itself. Though it is is imperative you should never overthink a film, it is just as damaging to underthink it. mother! abounds in insinuations that are impossible to ignore; not necessarily for the tropes picked, but for the way they are brought to task.
Relying on half-hearted horror tropes and tepid jump scares to unseat expectations throughout the first act, it quickly evolves into a different beast altogether. The always-impressive cinematography by Aronofsky’s career-long director of photography Matthew Libatique is taut and unrelenting — slowly turning from long sweeping takes to live in insular claustrophobia. This switch easily represents the ever-increasing unhinging of Mother, complimenting her character’s mental digression perfectly. Though the filmmakers use many visual techniques, edits and imagery almost directly lifted from “Black Swan” and “The Fountain,” the movie remains fresh in its bold use of multilayered diegetic and manipulated sound. Though Aronofsky’s brilliant sound designer Brian Emrich was absent from this film (from “Noah” as well), his influences are felt as Craig Henighan (“Deadpool”) constructs an auditory nightmare overflowing with rich hand-wringing tension.
Though the film has been classified as a horror; it really isn’t one. Just as with “Black Swan,” it seems that Aronofsky’s idea of horror isn’t through a direct attempt at scaring audiences through shock, but in the confusion and desperation of his protagonists in dire situations. The terror is the result of what isn’t understood and how the mind processes that incertitude, always compounded by questions that can not necessarily be answered. The ambiguity of the audio-visual assault editor Andrew Weisblum (“Moonrise Kingdom”) builds oozes with edginess and exhaustion than continually mounts with no reprieve. Perturbation evolves alongside pitch-black humor and off-the-wall incredulousness till the resulting trepidation is so intense that it bursts violently through the final moments of the work. And at the end of it all, nothing is certain or necessarily solved, which results in the film working as an effective and paralyzing experience.
Already the boiling subject of a fire-hot debate of its strategies and motifs (and rightfully so), there is nothing clean-cut about Aronofsky’s latest outing. It possesses such a raw nervousness and blistering suspense that it will undoubtedly (and continually) coax out exceptional discomfort in those who take the trip. It does not equal the same utter hopelessness and abject sorrow of the third act from “Requiem for a Dream,” but mirrors its rising tension and emotional resonance so effectively, that the result is yet another cerebral cinematic roundhouse. mother! is a haunting, enigmatic and divisive piece that should, and will, be studied long into the future for its formidable explorations in craft, narrative and overall direction.
September 16, 2017 @ 12:23 pm often with clothes on
I liked mother but I didn’t. I liked the slow and methodical buildup or should I say decent into madness but that’s all I liked about it. Aronofsky needs to dial back on his symbolism, if you miss any of what he’s going for in the movie like I did, it will be lost on you, and there are better choices to play the Jennifer Lawrence role. She’s a good actress but she didn’t feel right for it.
September 16, 2017 @ 12:42 pm Funky John
I don’t watch Darren Aronofsky movies. They confuse me more than entertain me.
September 16, 2017 @ 1:10 pm drastc
Weird movie. Def creepy, lots of disturbing imagery. Reviewer is the exception, most people will not like what they see.
September 16, 2017 @ 3:02 pm Saul
Sweet review! Since the first trailer, I’ve been looking forward to this. Cinema needs more mind trip Aronofsky films!
September 17, 2017 @ 1:51 am djv124
Uh, no. Not at all.
I’ve been a huge fan of Aronofsky since first watching Requiem For a Dream (Didn’t care too much fo Pi) and honestly, he’s been my favorite director ever since. I literally couldn’t wait to see Mother! and in fact went to a Thursday night showing of it at my local theater. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was, for many reasons, none of which you seemed to notice or touch upon.
For starters, Jennifer Lawrence. She’s completely miscast in this film. I know you might think it was bold and daring for Darren to use a female actress who in virtually every movie role she’s ever had been this strong protagonist to suddenly play a doormat, but this role needed more… nuance to the shock of what was happening. Nothing against JLaw, but she would’ve been dead last on my list of actresses to play this role. Why not get a girl who has a very, very good emotional face? Somebody who can tell a story with a twitch of her lips? There are many actresses out there that can do that, and sadly, JLAW is NOT one of them. This film had so much close up reaction shots… you needed a much stronger face for this movie to work.
Second, the actual filming of this movie. Sorry, but 16MM and iphones do not make great films. They scream pretentiousness, and most of all, it was just too distracting. I hate films that use this kind of approach to their camera work. It’s okay for some shots in a movie but nearly the entire run time? By the hour and forty minute mark, I wanted to throw up (and not from the gross as all heck sequence at the end with the baby. That’s all I’m going to say about that).
The third and biggest problem with this film is that it never made its point clear. It didn’t even try. I suppose you could say the point was really clear, that Javier is God and the house and JLAW are the planet or whatever, that Michelle and her Ed Harris are Adam and Eve, their children Cain and Abel, and that as the world got more and more populated, God became more and more in love with the idea of all these people on earth loving him, no matter the consequences, but then… why have a Swat team in it, or people with hoods over their heads getting executed, or the million other graphic images that were supposed to equal to what? This idea of devotion causing death and abject misery because we choose to be devoted to God? Or something like that? Or… huh?
I’m not even scratching the surface here with allegories. You could also say the movie dealt with motherhood as a whole, or as the experience between how an artist needs unrequited love to be an artist and be inspired, no matter the costs. And so on. I mean, take your pick… I counted no less than five huge allegories you could pull from this film. And hopefully you see the huge problem there.
I am all for a movie being abstract and not necessarily spelling things out for you neatly. Letting you as a viewer come to your own conclusions. But at the same time, this movie felt too much like a faery tale for adults, complete with graphic horror that happens, in order to teach us a lesson. BUT WHAT LESSON WERE WE SUPPOSED TO TAKE FROM IT? I mean, requiem for a dream and Black Swan… both films had a point to their madness and horror. Requiem’s catalyst for the bonkers ending it had was drugs. Black Swan was a ballerina’s obsession to be perfect led her to die in a state of absolute perfection. But this movie… it would’ve been amazing if that WTF ending wasn’t so… WTF, you know? Like I was given SOME clue about why I sat there and endured it all.
Like I said, I love Darren, always have, and I still will go see his films, but this is one that we all can pass on and forget about. The sooner the better, because it truly was a waste of his genius and talent. Why make a film that nobody will ever understand? Unless, of course, you don’t care about your audience, only about indulging yourself, in which case don’t ask me to pay nearly 30 dollars for me and my date’s tickets to see the film. Just saying. OVERALL GRADE: C-.
September 18, 2017 @ 11:59 am uihhhhhhhhhhhi
I watch all new movies