mother! is the latest film from celebrated auteur Darren Aronofsky starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a couple living day by day in what seems like marital bliss. The two characters are simply known as Him (Bardem) and Mother (Lawrence) and mother! follows Lawrence as she tries to deal with the growing unease that is happening within her household when a stranger (Ed Harris) comes calling one night to her household.
Nothing else can be discussed about the specifics of the story of mother! since it is such an experience when you go in blind but I can get into the heart of mother!, the acting, the direction, and the cinematography without giving too much away. Aronofsky has crafted a disturbing piece of fiction in this film, from the opening scene you will be tense unsure of what it is going on, and that sense of unease never dissipates, and that is both a boon to mother! and one of its issues.
You see the problem with the sense of constant questioning that keeps you so interested in the film only works if there is an equally measured payoff at the climax and that sadly doesn’t happen when the film ends after the 2-hour mark. The run time for the movie is also another issue unfortunately at just 2 hours long the film overstays its welcome by at least 15 minutes, and this is due to several scenes lingering on Lawrence breathing heavily and looking distraught about what is happening within her home. On the topic of Jennifer Lawrence, she is brilliant in mother! like her character trying to hold her fragile home together Lawrence does a lot of the heavy lifting acting wise and is easily the best part of the film. As the situation deteriorates in the film her state of mind also seems to decline, and it’s fascinating to watch. She has to put up with the fragile ego of Bardem’s character, and you feel her frustration and her devotion to him, and it makes her journey all the more tragic. The supporting cast of Bardem, Harris, and Pfeiffer are all playing their parts well, but they are given nothing truly compelling. The acting is top notch but what they are to the film seems to fizzle out by the third act of mother! and it’s infuriating because their performances are great, but ultimately none of it means anything by the time the credits roll.
An example of this is a section of the film that plays out like a 90’s soap opera complete with a revolving door of characters that escalate the drama. This begins, escalates and then ends within 20 minutes of the film and is never referred to again, it’s baffling because when you’re watching it, it’s engrossing but when all is said and done what did it do to progress the narrative?
There are several positives to mother! however, including the acting which I discussed before, that is enhanced by the stunning imagery. Aronofsky lays out an almost tangible landscape for the audience; there were moments that felt so real it further compounded on the compelling unconformability of mother! and it’s genuinely engaging because of that. The design of Aronofsky’s scenes is also something worthy of note as there are several scenes that will make the faint of heart cry out in disbelief and I’ll be honest that happened to me once or twice. The brutality of mother!, emotional, physical and psychological, adds another layer of surrealism and depravity that will draw you further into this decadent experience.
Looking back on mother! I think that reviews aren’t something to truly take into account with this film. There will be varying degrees of appreciation, and that is something oddly enjoyable about this movie. Your experience with this film will likely be very different from anyone else’s as this film leaves the audience with so many questions that every person will come up with their own answers and that’s fascinating as a cinematic experience, as a film though it may leave many people like myself wanting something much more substantial. Aronofsky has crafted a troubling, and tense film filled with terrifying characters, brutal imagery and a lasting sense of dread in mother! see it but understand nothing can prepare you for it.