A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.
Where to start with mother!? Darren Aronofsky’s latest is a film that has polarised critics across the globe and I’m still unsure exactly how I feel about it. Starring Jennifer Lawrence as the titular character (no specific character names are given), the film begins by following a young women who lives in a seemingly idyllic home with her older husband (Javier Bardem), a successful author who is looking for the ideal setting to write a new book. Lawrence’s character is clearly anxious even at the beginning, compounded by some weird and unsettling imagery, and this is enhanced when two strangers arrive at the house to disrupt things even further.
It’s a really strange film to get a handle on, but I felt like I was with it until the final act, when it really commits to going completely mental and it features some of the vilest imagery I’ve ever seen on film (OK, I’ve not seen some of the oft-cited ‘films’ such as ‘The Human Centipede’ or whatever). I had to look away at various points and I thought some of the scenes were genuinely disgusting and distasteful, and if there’s an allegory in here, I was struggling to see it. At one point about half way through, I heard the person behind mutter ‘what the fuck is going on?’ and I feel that fairly accurately conveys my thoughts on this film!
The one thing mother! absolutely has going for it are some phenomenal performances from seasoned actors and actresses, with Jennifer Lawrence absolutely outstanding in the leading role. She inhibits almost every scene and the narrative essentially sets out to mentally torture her character (and by extension Lawrence herself), and it’s gruelling to watch her get more anxious as the film goes on, with the characters surrounding her all behaving in unreasonable and unbelievable ways. Out of the supporting cast Michelle Pfeiffer is probably the standout as one of the two visitors, an ice cold matriarch who exchanges caged barbs with Lawrence throughout their encounters.
On the one hand it’s great to see a film of such singular artistic vision come out of the studio system, but it’s not a film I could really recommend. The performances are outstanding, but they’re smothered by a film that I’m not convinced even makes sense to Aronofsky and some of the sequences are so blatantly provocative that any semblance of meaning is lost, to me at least.
Rating: I’ll usually assign a rating to a film but I feel this is a rare instance where I don’t feel assigning a number will do justice, particularly as I’m still working out how I really feel about the film! At a push, it’s probably somewhere between a 2 and a 3, but would have been higher if not for the direction the final act takes.
Directed By: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, Kristen Wiig, Jovan Adepo, Stephen McHattie and Laurence Lebouef