If you know me, you know director Darren Aronofsky got me into filmmaking with Requiem for a Dream (2000) just like every other unoriginal “aspiring” filmmaker. When people hear Aronofsky’s name, more often than not they think of his best works, Requiem and Black Swan (2010), and how he makes disturbing, provocative, and memorable films (outside of Noah (2014)) that leave audiences confused, albeit entertained. With his latest film, Mother! (2017), there is certainly a lot to unwrap between performances, metaphors, overall meaning, and plot. I’ll warn you right now, to protect the integrity of the plot (and out of respect for Mr. Aronofsky, who I’m sure wants viewers to go into this movie with as clean a slate as possible), this is going to be a relatively vague review.
Mother! begins with Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem (we love Javier) living together; Lawrence is fixing up their home and Bardem is a struggling poet trying to find the motivation for his next work (something I’m sure Aronofsky and other artists can connect with). Suddenly the couple is greeted by Ed Harris knocking on their door (we LOVE Ed Harris) followed shortly by his wife, played by Michelle Pfeiffer (that white gold!). Soon enough, more and more people start invading Lawrence and Bardem’s home. While Lawrence protests it and asks them to leave, Bardem keeps allowing the masses into their home. From there, Darren Aronofsky does his thing and turns it up to 11. That’s about all the plot I can give you, that the trailers showcase, without giving key points away. However, even if I did give you more, who’s to say I’m even right in my interpretation of the film.
Whether it was Aronofsky’s intention or not, this film is VERY open to interpretation. When you watch the movie, you won’t necessarily be confused the entire time. You can follow the beats and you’ll get a story through and through. But the entire movie acts as a metaphor that can be broken down in a number of ways. From one viewing, I connected the dots to religious metaphors, metaphors on humanity, gender roles, artistry and the following it creates, and then some.
I’m usually not one for the religious metaphors and I don’t usually go to the movies to find some understanding of God and the world he created (FYI I’m on team evolution), but what really kept me interested in the movie was the performances by the talent. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I really felt the Jennifer Lawrence fatigue as of late. She blew up quickly after Winter’s Bone (2010) and found commercial success with the Hunger Games and X-Men franchises. The next thing you know she’s in every David O. Russell movie and Ariana Grande is doing spot on impressions of her on Saturday Night Live. But I will say, the Jennifer Lawrence in this movie is the Jennifer Lawrence I’d like to see more of. She gives a haunting performance and truly commits to her role (however viewers want to interpret her role). Javier Bardem is standout in this as well, and while I hated his actions and intentions for two hours, Bardem’s commitment to the role is undeniable. I’d love to see both of these actors receive recognition for their performances when Awards Season rolls around, but when has anything I ever wanted come to fruition (I’m still salty about Argo (2012) winning Best Picture over Life of Pi (2012))?
The best recommendation I can give about going into this movie is to understand that everything you see is not meant to be taken literally. A spade is not a spade, so to speak. The pacing can be slow but, in Aronofsky fashion, by the third act, things are tense and you think you know where the story’s headed but you really don’t. There’s a lot of detail in every scene from the camera work to the incredible sound design. There’s little to no music throughout the entire film and it certainly makes the experience all-the-more real. There’s imagery that is going to come off as disturbing as per usual in an Aronofsky film (I still can’t watch the hangnail scene in Black Swan). Some seemed unnecessary (probably bordering on offensive depending on how you feel) but the ends somewhat justify the means when you look at the big picture… or they won’t depending on how you interpret the movie.
Mother! is as Aronofsky as it gets. He disturbs his audience while at the same time keeping them invested for the two hour duration. If you don’t like Aronofsky’s work, you’ll have a ball tearing this movie down for its vagueness. If you think Aronofsky is our generation’s Griffith, you’ll call this a work of genius. I left the theater with mixed feelings, but I can’t deny the performances and attention to detail kept me invested for the entirety of the movie.