mother! Film Review
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Is it a film about the art of creation?
Is it a film about subjugation?
Is it a film about the relationship between men and women and the give and take of marriage?
Is it a commentary on how ideas infiltrate and inveigle when least expected?
Is it a film that's completely out there and likely to polarise audiences and provoke debate?
Well, in short, Darren Aronofsky's psychological jolter Mother! is all of those and a lot more besides, making this 2 hour descent into madness more than simply the craziest episode of Grand Designs ever seen.
Dripping in symbolism, and open to plenty of interpretation, mother! stars Jennifer Lawrence as a nameless woman, who lives with Javier Bardem's nameless man, who happens to be a poet.
Lawrence's character has been spending time rebuilding the house where they live after a fire gutted it, and her husband has been spending time grappling with writers' block, unable to birth any kind of writing.
While the duo appear happy in their various ways, the world is shattered when Ed Harris's character shows up on their doorstep without warning, believing the house to be a B&B. Invited in by the poet, but most unwelcome by Lawrence's character, Harris' man makes for an odd guest, striking a relationship with the poet that feels exclusive to Lawrence's woman.
Things are further exacerbated when his wife shows up (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her intrusive questions cause Lawrence's suspicions to rise.
And it's there that mother! descends into something both bizarre and insane.
Best viewed without prior indication of what occurs, Aronofsky's mother! will be all things to all manner of people.
To creatives, it will be the aforementioned visualisation of the birthing of an idea and as the roles of the cast start to become apparent, that allegory makes for easier understanding than what actually transpires.
Using extreme close ups for Lawrence's character alone and reserving wider shots for everyone else, Aronofsky spends the entire film depriving her of full length shots (save for the beginning) and by doing so, starts to build the deck of paranoia and claustrophobia to manic effect. It helps greatly that there's little incidental music in the film, with the sounds of the house, various other noises and atmospherics helping create a soundscape that's as breathtaking as it is unnerving.
Much like Black Swan, though perhaps through a more opaque prism, Aronofsky loads the dice with mother!
There seems to be a lot going on in mother! though admittedly, it's never much below the surface, which is maybe why the unorthodox journey is provoking so much debate elsewhere.
There will be some that will dismiss the pretensions of mother! and while Aronofsky veers dangerously close to indulging during the 2 hour run time, for those willing to submit to the path taken, it's a richly rewarding ride that sparks as much in the cognition of the viewers as it will spew bile in its haters.
Lawrence is very good in the descent down; with her character gradually becoming unhinged and confused but understandably so thanks to the way she feels and with Lawrence's expressive turn, the mania is universally understandable and curiously universal.
Furthermore, Bardem's egotistical poet starts off sensitively before becoming blinded by his own belief and self-delusion; it's hard to see how this couple could be together initially, but as the pieces fall into as much place as they're ever going to when directed by Aronofsky whose MO is other's mania, there's a lot to unpack.
Much like Twin Peaks: The Return refused to pander to narrative conventions and interpretations, Aronofksy's assault on the senses is vehemently original, marginally indulgent and weirdly rewarding.
Ignore the belief that this is a "woman goes mad in house" as that will set you wrong; it may be many viewpoints on societal issues and wildly open to differing theories, but mother! is nothing short of the kind of film that channels both Polanski and Lynch's sensibilities in about as broad a way as is compellingly possible.
You may not see anything like mother! on the big screen this year - and while it looks destined for moderate commercial success at best, Aronsofky's to be saluted for being a wide berth to birth the most bizarre film of the year.