Few films have left Movies In Focus as perplexed and confused as Darren Aronosfky’s 2017 film, mother!. It’s a fever-dream, a collage of terror and a cacophony of nightmares. I’m not sure if it’s a good film, but it’s definitely one which plays with your expectations.
Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play an unnamed wife and husband whose lives are thrown into chaos (quite literally) when another couple (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives at their door. Things take a nasty turn when their adult children (real-life brothers Domhnall and Brian Gleeson) turn-up – and then shit gets really weird.
If the above synopsis comes across as vague, it’s because you can’t really sum-up what happens in mother!. It’s a film that needs to be
seen experienced – and even then you’ll be confused as to what it’s about. The first half of the film plays like a creepy horror that verges on being a home invasion film, but then things take a turn into the bizarre. The last act in particular ditches narrative conventions and turns into a a barrage of horrific imagery, which makes it one of the bravest films released by a major Hollywood studio in decades. Following on from The Fountain and Noah, mother! once again sees Arronofsky return to the realm of the metaphysical religious film, one which slips onto screens under the guise of a horror. The plot plays with the theme of the earth vs humanity, creating a circular path with opaque religious imagery built around the Old Testament.
As you would expect with a cast of this calibre, the performances are all first-rate. Jennifer Lawrence is in every scene and she has to do a lot of heavy-lifting, carrying the movie on her shoulders. Javier Bardem holds his own, playing with strength and naiveté as the poet with writer’s block. Domhnall Gleeson does a lot with limited screen-time and Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer bring an eerie menace to their roles.
mother! is an assault in the senses and Aronofsky’s most challenging film since Requiem For A Dream. It’s a cinematic baseball bat to the face, an indescribable film that will be studied and pondered over for years. It’s essential viewing but I’m not sure if it’s a masterpiece or a total disaster. Time will tell.