Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky
Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) rises in the morning, a new day in her beautiful manor home in the middle of the woods. She shares this home with Him (Javier Bardem), her husband, a poet, and they live in solitude together. Then one night a knock at the door and a Man (Ed Harris) is on the steps. He is a doctor who claims he was told this was a bed and breakfast. Mother’s husband lets him in and without consulting her, allows the Man to stay. The next morning a Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives, the wife of the Man and suddenly Mother’s husband becomes obsessed with this family, ignoring her. From there, the litany of guests and violence increases as Mother becomes lost in her own world.
Director Darren Aronofsky is known for the intense cinematic experiences he has delivered so far. Requiem for a Dream was his big mainstream success and remains a film I have only seen once because of how extreme his vision is. His follow-up The Fountain isn’t intense in the same way. Instead, it veers for an emotional torment without the gore and violence of Requiem. I found The Wrestler to be a great film and probably my favorite of his work. Next was Black Swan, which was able to rediscover the intensity of Requiem but with a more subtle touch. I haven’t yet seen Noah, possibly one day, along with Pi. Now we get to mother! which is a different sort of intense and moves into realms of abstraction Aronofsky hasn’t yet touched on before.
There is, what I found to be, an obvious allegory going on here and if you happen to glimpse at the credits and character names on IMDB, this appears to be a modern version of a morality play, much Everyman or The Pilgrim’s Progress. Actors are not playing characters, rather the personification of concepts. What those concepts are is sometimes left up to the audience’s interpretation and other times it is made very clear. Depending on how you specifically view this sort of abstraction in media, you will either eat up the large philosophical points being made beneath the surface or find yourself eye rolling your way through the picture. mother! is a film that is virtually impossible to assign an objective rating to because it is reliant on the individual audience member’s reaction to what is being said.
I can’t think of a film in a long while what has the potential to elicit such a strong emotional reaction from mainstream audiences. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem’s presences are likely to bring in a slightly larger audience than this film would have garnered had lesser known actors been cast. Both deliver very affecting performances, Bardem walks a line between warm natured and sinister, playing the concept he represents in a way that will surprise viewers when they catch on to who he supposed to be. Lawrence does an excellent job and is really put through the emotional ringer particularly in the film’s climax.
mother! is also a film that is near impossible to discuss in depth without revealing the message behind everything. I guarantee it will be the most intense and unique cinematic experience you are likely to have this year. One way to know if what Aronofsky is doing will appeal to you is that Twin Peaks: The Return and mother! both traffic in the same realm of dream logic. Nothing is concrete, and everything has multiple meanings or interpretations. If what Lynch was doing in his television revival this summer was right up your alley then Aronofsky’s latest film will likely appeal to you as well.