Mother! asks the hard questions like, “what the hell did I just watch!?”
Darren Aronofsky is a director famed for making movies that leave most audience members confused while others walk out claiming that they “totally got it,” in that regards Mother! is a perfect example of the filmmaker’s work. The movie features a stellar cast with the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer, all of whom play their respective roles perfectly. The only question is, what exactly are their roles?
Mother! takes a voyeuristic approach to its cinematography. Aronofsky closely follows Lawrence, never leaving her for a second, firmly establishing her as the center which all other actors revolve around. Considering her talent, it’s not a bad call on his part, but the film slowly becomes claustrophobic. Rarely allowing her out of the audience’s site, and simply letting the others pass through as if they were simply visitors. In this way, Mother! slowly builds a visceral sense of anxiety. It doesn’t remain visceral though, as it slowly becomes quite clear that anxiety and despair are the true purpose of the tale.
Asking what Mother! is about is a tricky question. Mostly because I’m still a little unclear as to what exactly happened. It’s the type of movie that film students will be writing theses about the imagery and blunt metaphors. Normally, I would hate to deprive them the opportunity to excitedly present their thoughtful views, but I’m still going to do it.
The movie is an allegory for the earth, man, god, religion, etc. That’s not really a spoiler though, because Aronofsky is pretty blunt about it, which is a shame because he usually handles his films and their themes with surgical precision. That’s not to say that Mother! isn’t enjoyable, but it’s not a movie you’re going to want to sit through twice. So, I guess that’s exactly what I am saying. Look it’s not a perfect allegory, but it’s a thought provoking one. Honestly, I’m still arguing with myself about what all the little pieces meant.
Mother! is a slow burn for the vast majority of it. It manages to spiral into insanity though before a truly tumultuous third act. One that literally left me whispering sweet profanities to myself as I watched everything unfold on screen. I have to give credit where it’s due though, and no one does crazy like Aronofsky these days. Mother! though does not show the same control over the theme as his previous work, but it does embrace one of the directors other favorite themes, downfall.
Many will claim that Mother! is too complicated for most to understand, and that’s probably true. But does that make it good? If it’s too hard to truly grasp all subtitles, doesn’t that mean that it wasn’t effective storytelling? It’s a lot like telling a joke where the punchline has to be explained. Is Mother! a bad movie, probably not. But it is a cluttered mess. Which means the Academy will probably love it.
Honestly, it’s your call if you want to see Mother! or not. It’s good it’s good parts; the performances, the way it messes with your mind, the vivid imagery and themes. It also has its bad parts; it’s a complete mess and will leave you confused and (like me) whispering sweet profanities to yourself. It’s a film that doesn’t pull its punches and trust me, you will feel them in your gut. But like most of the film snobs out there will say, it’s not a movie for anyone. Personally, I’m kinda glad I saw it. I don’t feel any better after sitting through it though, and I will probably never watch it again. But I feel like I saw something important or was at least beaten about the face by something important. The verdict? If you want to spend an evening confused and a little uncomfortable, then Mother! is the film for you!