mother! is a horror film written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, and stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer. After I give my rating, I will be giving some spoilers in my interpretation of the film but up to then, this review will be spoiler-free.
The Story/The Direction:
A young woman, Mother (Lawrence), wants to live a quiet life with her husband, Him (Bardem). He is an acclaimed poet who has severe writer's block. Mother is trying to rebuild her husband's old home that was burned in a fire. One day, a mysterious couple (Harris and Pfeiffer) arrive and everything changes for Mother and Him. Him is more open to them (plus many others) staying with them while Mother is very hesitant to let these strange people stay with them. The guests start wanting more from them than what Mother can provide. This film clearly takes some inspiration from Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby but it is unique in its own way. It is gripping and baffling once you realize what the film is trying to say. Aronfosky is able to tell a story that is absolutely riveting and insane.
Aronofsky has crafted this masterful work of art with very little to no music and great cinematography. The film is shot with a lot of close-ups which adds to the claustrophobia of the home that Mother and Him live in. Due to this, you are able to feel the crowd that Mother feels when a lot of people are in her home. You get to see right through the eyes of characters which gives them more emotion and feeling. Having no consistent musical score adds to the realism of what Mother is experiencing. She is just trying to live a normal life with her husband but cannot due to the Him's choices and the vast amount of people. Aronofsky has tackled dark films before such as Black Swan, The Wrestler, The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream, Noah, and Pi. There are a lot of similarities such as Black Swan's ability to get into a character's physical pain and soul. It is full of uncomfortable images, metaphors, and allegories that will inspire a discussion among people. It's a visually striking film which Aronofsky always delivers on and it has potential to do really well technically speaking.
This film is brilliantly acted by all. Bardem is fantastic as Him who has this way about him that you feel you can trust but also that he's hiding something. He truly loves his wife but loves the fame that he gets even more. Pfeiffer is able to steal the scene from Lawrence when she appears and is so fun to watch her be conniving. I hope it leads to more high-profile work as she commands the room with her tone and line delivery. Harris is good as always and there's a beyond random cast that I won't spoil but that person does a good job as well. The star though is Lawrence. She gives this amazingly intense performance of this naive and innocent character that you feel for her in every moment. This film is about her character. You see things through her eyes and you feel everything that she does. Due to all of the close-ups of her, you see each emotion in her eyes and her body movements. She could get an Academy Award nomination for her performance.
The main flaw with this film is it's pacing. The viewer goes from extreme dark sequences to "normal" day to day stuff. This can lead to some boring parts. While also for most of the film, the cinematography choices did not bother me, there were times when it did. I understand what Aronofsky was trying to do by showing only her but it got annoying at times and I wish he'd mix things up a little. If you're also able to pick up on the message of the story early on, the rest of the film can feel long as you know what's going to happen and makes the film feel longer than it is at only two hours. I will also say that while it did not bother me so much, some of the images it shows can be uncomfortable to some. The overall message is also a bit convoluted because there are so many things going on that you don't know which allegory is more important than the last.
This movie is insane and will have you either hating it or loving it. It is not a traditional horror film so if you go in expecting that, you'll be very disappointed. This is a film that should be shown in film courses on how to tell a gripping story that clearly has other motives. While not for mainstream audiences, this is a film that will have you talking to your friends about. While not as hard as to take in as Requiem for a Dream, it is on its level of quality. You don't have to see it in theatres but I do think that does add to it a little bit. It is a great film but it is also a hard watch.
Rating: 4.0/5.0 bowties
What did you all think of the film? Let me know in the comments section.
If you want to read my other reviews, click on my logo at the end of the review.
Spoilers beyond this point
I'm not saying this is the only interpretation of the film but I feel it is a very strong one. I also mean no offense to anyone who reads this portion. It's hard to grab every single metaphor and allegory that Aronofsky is telling. The main one that I could pick up on is the Biblical story of how God, Him (Bardem) created the world with the love of Mother Earth (Lawrence). They live in an essential Eden where Mother "wants to make a paradise." One day, Man (Harris) shows up with his wife (Pfiffer) coming a few days later clearly representative of Adam of Eve. They even break an item that they were told not to and banished from the room. Later on, their two sons show up and start fighting in the house with one being killed. I took this as being a clear allusion to the Abel and Cain story but a metaphor of wars between people, brothers in nature, as well. There are plenty of other religious references that I won't go completely into but it becomes obvious after awhile. Aronofsky takes the creation story that is mostly known and gives you a different perspective, the woman's point of view. The majority of Abrahamic religions have God as a masculine figure, even though that Adam and Eve are created in his image. What if there was a woman on the side of God who was doing all the work to inspire and make his life better so he could create. I find this creation story fascinating to think about. Aronofsky shows how God's creative aspect is only able to come to fruition after every single ounce of love and energy is taken from the woman, who just continues to give her all while he takes in all the glory. He wants to have it all, a loving wife and loving fans. After she gives him his all, she dies and all he does is repeat the process over again. This is a clear allegory of the creation story where God would recreate the world multiple times until he thought he got it right. He makes the decision while Mother Earth is the one going through the stress of it all. He has the love of Mother but he wants more. To put it simply, he wants to have his cake and eat it too. This take on the creation story is clearly going to cause controversy but Aronofsky wants to have people up in arms about this film. Due to its style and message, people will continue to talk about this film for years and honestly, that's the goal of any great filmmaker.
Thanks again for reading!