Directed by Darren Aronofsky.
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson and Kate Mara.
A poet suffering from writer’s block and his young wife live in a massive, remote house. Following a fire, she has devoted herself to renovating it and has created a beautiful home for them to share. Then one unexpected visitor arrives on their doorstep, followed by another and a few more. Soon the couple’s home and lives have been taken over by hordes of people. He revels in it. For her, it’s a living nightmare.
Take a bow, Darren Aronofsky! mother! isn’t just the Marmite movie of the year, it’s also provoked such a myriad of reactions that it’s single-handedly resurrected the fine art of post-film discussion. Something that will last long after the movie has departed from cinema screens.
By all accounts, Aronofsky wrote the script in just five days. They must have been the longest and most intense days going: his vision, especially in the later stages, is expansive and complex, crammed with a multitude of ideas and themes. It’s a large slice of modern gothic, part horror that tips over into Grand Guignol, part thriller but, most of all, the director’s own commentary on the modern world.
Everything is shown through the eyes of Mother (Jennifer Lawrence). She doesn’t have a name, nor does her significantly older husband Him (Javier Bardem), or any of the other characters. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, the first in a long line of unwelcome visitors, are simply Man and Woman. But they’re not meant to be fully rounded characters, rather representatives of themes and attitudes. Mother is the proverbial domestic goddess, proud to the point of possessive of how she’s transformed the house and reluctant to share it with anybody bar her husband. Yet there’s a disconnect in their relationship and it’s Pfeiffer who puts her unerring finger on the reason. All that devotion to the house is just a distraction because what the younger woman really wants is a baby.
Not that the fabulously foxy Pfeiffer views motherhood through rose-tinted glasses. “You give, and you give, and you give. And it’s just never enough.” She may be saying it at a time of profound grief, but the line echoes up and down the film. It’s what Mother has been doing all the time, but she always seems to be short-changed.
That’s just one of many themes. There’s the cult of celebrity, although social media has been deliberately – and curiously – left out: the house is in a mobile phone black spot and that’s just the way the couple like it, opting for a solitary land line. But there’s no escape, because when those first, uninvited visitors arrive, it turns out that Ed Harris is a huge fan and has deliberately tracked down his idol. He’s not alone because, when his writer’s block is dislodged, the poet publishes some new work and the whole world seems to beat a path to his door. The focus switches to religion, he becomes something of a Messiah figure, but his followers are destructive, self-centred and disrespectful. He loves their attention, but it’s all for his self-glorification, not for their betterment. And you can only conclude that Aronofsky has a seriously jaundiced view of the human race.
Meanwhile, the ideas keep on coming: Mother’s anxiety and possible depression, the environment ….. and more. If anything, there are probably too many, so that some of them are explored, others are left under-developed. As a writer, he’s taken on too much and something had to give.
Not only is this a film that will divide audiences, but its latter stages could easily repel them: they are both distressing and deeply disturbing. The climax is nothing short of outrageous but, right from the opening moment, mother! exerts a remarkable, almost hypnotic spell. There are times when you feel you just can’t watch any more, but you do – if only to see just how far Aronofsky will go.
mother! also comes with its own exclamation mark, complete with sound effect. It’s the director’s little joke, making you expect something lighter. It’s his only gag. This is shocking, spectacular and surreal, all in equal measure. And 100% compelling.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★