Aronofsky’s recent works seem to be taking a particularly biblical turn, a far cry from his previous and more acclaimed work – and Mother! is a prime example, which really divided opinion of audiences and critics alike.
To attempt to summarise the plot, a husband and wife (played by Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence, but referred to only as Him and Mother) are disrupted by a mysterious couple (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) who visit their tranquil home. As the new couple continue to make themselves increasingly comfortable, they start to take over, eventually leading to a horrific event which pushes Mother over the edge.
Suspension of disbelief has never been required more for a film than it is for Mother! – as it progresses, it becomes increasingly abstract, and realism is out the window. The film is more one huge metaphor than a step-by-step narrative, though the exact thing that Aronofsky is trying to say is still up for debate between audiences. Some think it’s about the male ego and gender roles, some think it’s more of a biblical statement – and religion is hard to escape here, in the imagery used and character of Him.
The message of Mother! is obvious when you see it, there’s no doubt about that, but the issue is in the way it’s portrayed. Some have called it pretentious, and quite rightly so – it seems that Aronofsky was trying to force his magnum opus into existence, instead of creating it organically through his usually genius filmmaking. By cramming the entirety of the dark side of humanity into an absurd 25 minute finale, which is blindingly exhausting and ridiculous, it belittles the powerful message behind it. Aronofsky has shown deftness and subtlety in his filmmaking before, but there’s a distinct lack of it in the final act – continuing the pace and atmosphere of the first two acts would have made for a far better result.
The marketing for Mother! may have also let it down; it was widely advertised as a horror film, but in truth, it’s almost impossible to categorise, as it doesn’t use any clear genre tropes. And, the inclusion of Jennifer Lawrence as the star could have fooled audiences into thinking is would be a much more mainstream affair.
Lawrence is actually one of the best things about the film – she pulls off the tranquillity of her character effortlessly and conveys the subsequent breakdown in her mental state without a flaw. Unfortunately, the sheer confusion on her face mirror that of the viewer, and her performance is overshadowed by the ludicrous happenings going on around her.
It’s hard to call this film a disaster, because it’s simply not true. It’s not badly made – more a piece of art which will be interpreted completely differently by everyone who sees it. Aronofsky has set out to bring a specific kind of vision to life, and in doing so, has likely created enough dialogue and debate around his film to please any modern auteur.
And, so, it’s 2 stars from us for Mother! – this is a ‘love it or hate it’, unique film with a creative concept and powerful message, but the bewildering execution of its finale and lack of correlation with the director’s body of work makes it hard to rank it any higher.
Watch the trailer below, though it’s doubtful it will actually prepare you for the film in any way. You can also buy it on DVD now.