“Mother!” Movie Review


     Audacity is one of those film attributes I love to see most.  The mere thought of constructing a vision which differs greatly from the mainstream and seeks to make a provocative statement is  the kind of filmmaking I greatly respect.  Writer/director Darren Aronofsky has certainly been down this road before, particularly with his hypnotic take on drug use in “Requiem for a Dream” (2000) and more recently, his acclaimed psychological thriller “Black Swan” (2010), which featured Natalie Portman’s Oscar winning performance.  Both of those features pushed the envelope in various ways, but neither compare to “Mother!”, which is perhaps Aronofsky’s most bizarre, yet completely riveting and thought provoking film to date.  Featuring stellar performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, “Mother!” is destined to be one of the most talked about films of the year, and is a true love it or hate it exercise in original storytelling.  Put simply, you’ve likely never had an experience like this one.

     The marketing for “Mother!” was clearly designed to throw you for a loop, indicating through the images on screen and the perceived storyline that we were in for a modern retelling of Roman Polanski’s 1968 horror classic “Rosemary’s Baby”.  It doesn’t take long; however, to realize Aronofsky is taking us in a completely different direction.  “Mother!” is an allegory for the state of our planet and the often harmful people who inhabit it.  To tell this story, Aronofsky centers his story around Lawrence’s character, known only as Mother, and allows her movements, actions, and reactions to indicate how the plot will move forward in any given scene.  Lawrence is photographed almost always in close up, from both the front and behind, rarely giving us a glimpse of what is around her until people are directly in her face. When we first meet her, she awakens in the early morning and revisits one of the many projects she has been working on in the large country home she lives in with her husband.  

     Noticeably older, her husband is known as Him and is played by Javier Bardem.  Referring to the character as  “Him” is clearly a reference to God.  And the fact Mother has created this beautiful home the two of them live in seems to be a reference to Mother Earth.  And so the two share an interesting relationship in that Mother seeks to create a home, whereas Him seeks to create life that will occupy that home.  This explains an early sequence in which a Man (Ed Harris) and shortly thereafter, a Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrive at their doorstep in circumstances that would lead one to believe they are Adam and Eve.  There is more to that, but I’ll stop there.  

     Him is a poet by trade, and through the circumstances created by the Man and Woman, he is inspired to write again.  What comes from these writings is a massive following that leads to hundreds of people appearing on the couple’s doorstep.  Mother wants them all to leave, knowing their capabilities as a destructive force, but Him lets all of them into their home as all hell breaks loose.  The images Aronofsky creates in these sequences are unlike anything I have ever seen, especially considering the manner and the context in which they are presented.  There are many truly shocking images, but also several clever bits within that elevate the story and hammer home the obvious point the filmmaker is making.  Mother warns a couple sitting on a kitchen sink that the cabinet is not yet braced into the wall and is not stable.  The couple complies with the warning, but when Mother turns her back, the couple hops right back on.  They do this several times until the whole thing is ripped right out of the wall and water is spraying everywhere.  Could this be a metaphor for any one of number of terrible things humans do to the Earth everyday, despite the warning of severe consequences?

     There are plenty of other themes at work here beyond the systematic destruction of Mother Earth by God’s creations.  The sheer narcissism of a man who believes his wife must continue to give until she literally has nothing left is explored in depth, with Him being the one who consistently turns their lives upside down with the plethora of dirty and rude houseguests who seem to have no respect for the home Mother has created.  But all of these people just love Him, and he feeds off it, even when these same individuals leave messes in areas that were previously spotless or go directly to Mother and refer to her in the most unkind of ways.  It’s as if he expects his constant apologies to make up for the unbearable chaos and systematic tearing down of the sanctuary she has painstakingly built, but as we know, everyone has their breaking point.  And Mother certainly has hers.

     As I stated earlier, “Mother!”, like any film that dares to deviate from the mainstream, will be met with both critical praise and out right hatred.  It’s one of those rare films that will illicit strong emotional reactions both ways, but will also cause some to simply ignore what they have just witnessed because it requires too much thought in order to process.  It’s easier to dismiss something you may not understand instead of looking at the bigger picture and realizing an important point is actually being made.  Yes, the third act is way over the top and terrifying at times, but so is our society, which seems to be here only to consume and not give a second thought as to who is supposed to take out the trash.  GRADE: B+