Darren Aronofsky is clearly working some things out in Mother! It is perhaps his most surreal film and undoubtedly his most personal. The writer-director is grappling with concerns about the environment, the nature of creation, the role of religion and man’s relationship with God. It’s some pretty heavy stuff, but it’s also a movie that features something really weird in a toilet at one point. Seriously, what was that supposed to be?
The film centers around Jennifer Lawrence who plays the titular character–well, maybe. It’s not really stated, but she is somebody’s mother. She is restoring the home of her poet husband (Javier Bardem) as he tries to write something new. Their secluded existence is interrupted by the arrival of a man (Ed Harris), who turns out to be an ailing fan of Bardem. Harris is soon followed by his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), and more people follow her, including Domhnall Gleeson which further proves he is the most successful Hogwarts alum. (“But Emma Watson was in the highest grossing film of 2017!” I hear you cry. To which I counter, “The Last Jedi comes out in December” and drop the proverbial microphone.) While Bardem revels in the attention people give him, their presence takes an extreme toll on Lawrence and the house as the film devolves into destruction and carnage in the third act.
Bardem is a clear stand-in for God; the poet’s creations are not just words but The Word. (Side note: Way to go making God a poet, Aronofsky. That’s just the literal worst God.) But this God has mood swings, neglects his wife and is the ultimate attention seeker. He clearly wants the adoration of humanity, but humanity is a destructive, self-serving force who twists what Bardem gives them into something ugly (see the aforementioned carnage). What Lawrence represents is a little harder to nail down. She could represent mother nature or artistic inspiration. She could stand as a representation of faith in its purest form, completely isolated from society. Or perhaps, she is simply the female counterpoint to Bardem: the mother to his Holy Father. Whatever she is, she spends a lot of the film crying and screaming which has basically become J. Law’s bread and butter.
Mother! is a difficult film to review. As I mentioned this is a deeply personal film, and that goes for the audience as well. Reading someone else’s opinion is going to be even less informative than usual. The movie is going to mean different things to every person who watches it. Some people will love it, some will be deeply offended and a fair share will be confused. I can understand each reaction, but I like the film.
It’s some of Aronofsky’s most interesting filmmaking. For as much as the religious allegory is clear, at times Mother! feels like a gothic horror story. We have an isolated house, a hidden room, a madman on the loose, a recurring bloodstain, and plenty of psychosexual tension. But not all the horror elements worked for me. There’s some jump scare-style editing, and I found myself wondering why it was there. It didn’t necessary detract from the film, but it certainly didn’t add anything.
Cake Rating: Jennifer Lawrence really didn’t want people eating cake in the movie, so I’ll abstain. (I’ll also pass on taking Communion if you don’t mind, thanks.)