Mother!, the latest movie from Darren Aronofsky, stars Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, Skyfall) as Him and Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games, Passengers) as the titular character, one half of a married couple whose existence in a tranquil country home is compromised after strangers start arriving unannounced. Billed as a drama/horror film Mother! follows the couple’s various trials and tribulations as they are faced with a myriad of emotions ranging from tragedy to joy all while the audience is kept in the dark about what’s really going on.
Mother! leaves much to be desired, like a coherent plot, a structured narrative and maybe even a half-hearted explanation for what one has just watched. And yes, Mother! is less of a traditional film and more arthouse, it is far too high brow for its own good. After the conclusion, most of the audience members in my screening were left audibly confused–myself included.
It’s a shame, because arthouse horror can be done in a beautiful, intelligent way that is still accessible. The difference between something like, say, Get Out (a complicated, smart horror movie and one of the biggest hits of the year) and Mother! is that Get Out had a clear direction and properly layered itself with the underlying message it was conveying without tying itself up in knots or distracting you from the events in the film.
Mother! was a marked disappoint from Aronofsky’s previous works, such as Black Swan which was dark and brooding, but exquisite. Additionally, The Wrestler and Requiem For A Dream were also fantastic, yet still difficult films cut with the rawness of desperation, addiction, and the tragedy of the human spirit. Mother! is not of the same caliber, rather it’s a disorganized mess that badly needs some structure to convey at least a narrative that makes sense.
And yet, Lawrence and Bardem really bring their A-game to sell the story. The problem is that there is not a clear, defined premise. In this way, Mother! really let down these talented actors. The performances are compelling throughout. Even after the first hour, when plot development drastically slows down, it is the creepy performance of Bardem and Lawrence’s fragile portrayal of the tortured Mother that keep you invested. While I was getting frustrated with the plot, I was still hooked by Bardem and Lawrence and their twisted relationship.
The cinematography is also breathtaking, while the use of natural sounds in the film enhance the creep factor. This technique was reminiscent of Requiem For A Dream where Aronofsky enhanced the sounds created by grinding teeth and needle usage to highlight the drug use throughout the film.
Another feature of Mother! that I tip my hat to is the brutal violence that is not implied, but completely, unflinchingly shown. There are many scenes that exemplify this, but the one that sticks out in my mind is when Lawrence is writhing on the ground and is being severely beaten and brutalized by a horde of people who call her terrible names as they assault her. This scene is hard to watch, but this and other, similar scenes should be appreciated for their intensity.
Overall, this is unfortunately not the film I was expecting from auteur Darren Aronofsky. It is a jumbled, convoluted mess that badly needed guidance for clarity and understanding. See it just to see it, but otherwise avoid at all costs and give IT your money instead.
Mother! is now in theaters.
WICKED RATING 5/10
Director(s): Darren Aronofsky
Writer(s): Darren Aronofsky
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris
Studio/ Production Co: Protozoa Pictures
Release date: September 15, 2017
Length: 121 min