After the lackluster 2014 Bible epic Noah, director Darren Aronofsky figured it was time to take a directorial break. After all, his other past masterpieces as an auteur (Requiem For A Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler, Black Swan) can take the wind out of any man.
Three years later, he comes up with the psychological horror tour de force Mother! which sucker-punches most of us with its take on isolation, intrusion, and experiencing chaos when you’re a deep-seated introvert.
This Old House
The story starts off normally enough, with a couple played by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem living in a house in a peaceful middle of nowhere. Lawrence is the young wife who refurbished the latter’s house which was previously burned down. Bardem is the older husband who creates books and literature, and currently deals with writer’s block while figuring out his next masterpiece. This all gets disrupted when another older couple, played by Ed “Westworld” Harris and Michelle “Catwoman” Pfeiffer mistook their house for an “Airb&b” lodging.
Graciously, Bardem’s character invites them to stay, unaware that they’re actually obsessive fans of his earlier work. Before you know it, the couple’s sons barge in to settle a will dispute. Then, things start to get really strange. More people stream into the house and refuse to leave. All these events make Lawrence’s quiet character flustered, leading her to experience several outbursts of anger. On the other hand, her husband seems to enjoy the attention and adoration of his fans.
The second half of the movie is where it all becomes interesting, or rather confusing. If this is your first Aronofsky film experience, get ready for a rollercoaster ride to the insane, the grotesque, and the very subtextual. If this isn’t your first Aronofsky movie, you’ll soon find that he’s up his ante with this one. His masterpieces like Requiem For A Dream and Black Swan are nothing compared to Mother!
How brutal and uncomfortable can the second half get? Let’s just say that the NC-16 rating on this film is slapped on for a reason, so take caution if you’re of the faint of heart. There’s a scene where someone gets beaten up in such a brutal fashion, I winced.
Get ready for plenty of claustrophobic and disorienting shots with in your face chin-to-forehead closeups that can get pretty uncomfortable.The film follows a kind of dream logic narrative where you need to sit through a lot of the talking bits before it veers towards its climax.
Nothing needs to be said about the acting because it’s spot on and well done. Lawrence, Bardem, Harris, and Pfeiffer did their darndest in playing their roles well, both through their delivery and their expressions. Brian Gleeson & Kristen Wiig somehow ends up in not-too-minor roles halfway through that actually rolls the narrative along, so hooray for them.
With a memorable second half that reminds audiences why he’s the king of these disturbing style of filmmaking and motif, Mother! is this year’s surprise oddity. I’m personally glad I got to experience Aronofsky at his most visceral, but I can only stomach it once.