Why you should revisit Mother!
Everything thrown in (including kitchen sinks)9
Bianca Garner | On 30, Sep 2019Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer
Watch Mother! online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
Upon its release in 2017, Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! divided audiences and critics alike. What makes it such an appealing film is that ability to divide audiences – the film’s marketing even worked on that angle by depicting Jennifer Lawrence’s character (known only as “Mother”) with one side of her face beautifully made up – that side of poster representing the positive critical responses – and then the other side of her face battered, bruised and bloody. The reviews on this side stated such things as “People are going to fu*king hate this movie” and “This Movie is Insane”.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Yes, it’s a mind-blowing masterpiece, but it‘s also insane, uncompromising horrific and a grotesque experiment of auteur craftsmanship gone astray.
Mother! opens with a woman engulfed in flames. She opens her eyes and looks straight into our very souls. We watch as Javier Bardem’s character (simply referred to as “Him”) use a mysterious crystal to bring his house and wife (Lawrence) back to life. He spends his time trying to overcome writer’s block and she painstakingly renovates the house. Their peaceful existence becomes threatened upon the arrival of two mysterious people – called “Man” (Ed Harris) and “Woman” (Michelle Pfeiffer). The arrival of these guests only brings chaos and turmoil for Mother, who struggles to keep her house in order. To expand on the narrative would reveal too much, and it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible.
Mother! is not the easiest film to watch, then again what does one expect from Aronofsky? The filmmaker has never been one to shy away from depicting violence and controversy, as seen in Requiem for a Dream (2000) and Black Swan (2010). His films set out to test our patience and Mother! places us into the point-of-view of Lawrence’s character as she endures hell on Earth. Even when the film begins to lose itself and starts to crumble under the weight of its own ambition, we continue watching, completely entranced by Lawrence’s presence.
The film whizzes along, thanks to Nigel Jena’s editing and cinematography. The camera lurks behind Lawrence as she scurries from one room to the next seeking solitude, and he shoots her from a low angle to create a sense of vulnerability. The film’s sound design by Jóhann Jóhannsson and Craig Henighan is a sophisticated mosaic. And, while the film is best enjoyed on a big-screen for its masterful set design and cinematography, it is also worth experiencing the film wearing headphones so you hear every last clank, ding, whistle and moan of the house.
Mother! is truly unique. It isn’t quite like anything we have seen before, and it’s an attack on all of the senses. But Mother! is also a frustrating masterpiece, which is left open to so much interpretation: Is it a retelling of the Bible’s Genesis? Is it about the impending threat of global warming? Is it a critical take on the toxicity of the patriarchy? Perhaps it’s all of these interpretations, or perhaps it’s none. At the end of the day, there is no single answer. Mother! can be about whatever you decide. In years to come, Mother! will most likely go the same way as The Shining (1980), and become a film that people will seek to analyse, deconstruct, and try to apply meaning to. Only time will tell whether it will be regarded in the same high esteem.