Written by Aaron Radcliff:
They say that first impressions matter a lot and it’s safe to say the same for reviews. Sure, I could’ve gone for an easy target for the site’s first review. But nothing establishes dominance like reviewing a movie from either Lars von Trier or Darren Aronofsky.
Aronofsky, who has gathered his fair share of controversy thanks to films like Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, graces us with another one of his patented mind-twisters with mother!
mother! (yes, it bothers me, too, that it’s technically lowercase) stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as an unnamed married couple living in what they hope will be “paradise” in the form of their home that is being renovated. Bardem is a struggling writer who can’t seem to shake a particularly bad case of writer’s block while Lawrence focuses on remodeling the house while her husband tries to “create.”
One night, they are visited by a similarly unnamed man (Ed Harris) and eventually his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) who, quite rudely, begin to overstay their welcome and make themselves all-to-comfortable in the home of our leads. The stresses of the situation continue to build and strain the relationship of the couple and force Lawrence to doubt the sincerity of her marriage.
As much as I want to elaborate, that is as much as I can say without completely spoiling everything.
If you couldn’t gather by the name, the concept of maternity plays a huge role in the overall meaning of the imagery we see later on as well as the plot itself.
Throughout the first hour there was a strong Rosemary’s Baby feel about it all, but the second act subverts those feelings and takes us down a much different path which we struggle to understand, just like Lawrence, until the end when it’s all revealed.
Each actor feels suited to their role. Pfeiffer and Harris play self-centered assholes perfectly, even to the point where I hated them alongside J-Law. Because we only see things the way Lawrence sees it, we empathize with her struggles and share in the same feelings as her, all while she tries to make sense of this situation and why the man who claims to love her always does the things that seem wrong.
Of course, this wouldn’t be an Aronofsky film without the controversy and allegories. As the film progresses through the second act, the storytelling and visuals begin to take on a mind of their own which, truthfully, initially confused me as I watched.
mother! as a whole lacks any real controversy until one particular part toward the end which feels over-the-top and out of nowhere and only put in to shock and enrage the audience. But once the film reaches its end and every aspect comes together, the veil is lifted and it all makes sense. The allegory becomes clear and the egregious attempt at controversy almost becomes twisted art that ties everything together. All the confusion that I had dissipated and my eyes felt truly open. Even an hour after leaving the theater, so many more things continued to make sense and endear themselves to me.
Many will not see it that way.
While the film is categorized as a horror/thriller, if you enter the theater expecting to see some crazy slasher film, you’ll be disappointed. Much like last year with The Witch, this film will get a lot of flak thanks in part to the marketing. But if you enter this knowing Aronofsky’s past work, you’ll surely walk out having enjoyed the experience while also slightly disturbed.
While it may not be as good as some of his other works, and it’s certainly no Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky has shown that he continues to direct great films that command top-quality performances from his actors and that he certainly knows how to write a mind-twisting story as well.
Score: 8 out of 10
Photo via Paramount Pictures