Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, Kristen Wiig
Plot: A couple live together in a idyllic seclusion until their tranquility is interrupted by unwelcome guests.
Darren Aronofsky is a serial provocateur, from his cerebral debut Pi, his shocking adaptation of Hubert Shelby Jr’s Requiem for a dream through to his more mainstream offerings like The Wrestler and the haunting Black Swan, he is a director that relishes in pushing the buttons of his audience and push buttons he most certainly does with Mother! In recent memory, I can’t think of a film more divisive, that illicits such a response from its audience, a film that has made a portion of its audience so angry they have taken to the internet to vent spleen with vehemence reserved usually for criminals (Seriously, go check its Facebook reviews). Is Mother! really that bad though?
The answer from me is a resounding no, it is most certainly not that bad, in fact it is very good. Many people will disagree, some vehemently so as Mother! is a work that has provoked some serious outbursts from the cinema-going public. The first issue that may have caused this lies in the films marketing, it was marketed as a mainstream drama when it is anything but a mainstream film, it’s narrative is chaotic, almost dreamlike at times and is heavily allegorical, something your average cinema goer may not fully appreciate. Secondly, it is massively provocative and at times, downright unpleasant and uncomfortable to watch, another massive turnoff for the casual viewer. If you bare these things in mind and watch the film with a more open mind, it becomes a much more rewarding experience.
Mother! is a film built on allegory, primarily humanities abuse of nature, through its own selfish motives and through its blind devotion in deifying figureheads such as God, the second biggest allegory in the film, it even throws in a Christ metaphor during the most upsetting moment of proceedings. To your average cinema-goer, they don’t want to have to be thinking in metaphors & allegories when they visit the cinema, they don’t want to be presented with queasy, dream-like sequences of increasing confusion, chaos and outright horror, at least not when they are being led to believe they are going to be watching a completely different film, this is why I feel audiences got so angry about Mother!, it could be argued as subversion but really it is very much Aronofsky pushing those buttons again, almost as if he relishes in some small way the discomfort he illicits from the more unwitting members of his audience.
For a film that is so steeped in symbolism in its dream-like presentation, many of its facets are heightened deliberately, particularly the performances of its cast. Jennifer Lawrence is often cast in strong, clued-up, witty roles, here she is very much the victim, the dreamer stuck in her own personal nightmare as people literally tear her world apart piece by piece. Lawrence just got nominated for a Golden Raspberry for her performance in Mother! when in my opinion she delivers one of the strongest performances in the film. Javier Bardem offers support as her celebrated writer husband who revels in the adoration of his audience, this egotism is taken to surreal extremes as the film progresses, a heightened view of the allure of celebrity and all that comes with it coupled with an affective metaphor for religion and the, at times, dangerous, blind devotion it inspires. Support is also offered from the likes of Ed Harris & Michelle Pfeiffer who enact the implied roles of Adam & Eve with Domhnall & Brian Gleeson as their Cain & Able, all on fine form.
Mother! is an incredibly divisive film, there is no denying that. Some will laud it whilst others will see it as nothing more than pretentious pants pie, I am firmly in the former camp. This is anything but a straight forward film and requires the viewer to approach it in an analytical mindset to fully appreciate the layers of metaphor implied and if you view the film in that way, at is heart you will find a powerful allegory for the abuse of the natural world and the sometimes slavish, blind devotion to religion no matter the destruction it may cause. I was advised by many to avoid Mother! like the plague, that it was a meritless affront to decency and just an outright awful film, I’m very glad I ignored that advise as I found Mother! a powerful & rewarding experience.