mother! (2017 USA, d. Darren Aronofsky, 121 minutes)
To quote TIFF Artistic Director, Cameron Bailey, mother! essentially begins where Black Swan ends. If that doesn’t intrigue you at all, then this film is not for you.
To explain the plot of mother! would be an impossible task, so I’ll give you the basics. mother! follows a famed poet (Javier Bardem) and his timid wife (Jennifer Lawrence) whose relationship is tested when an uninvited couple (Ed Harris & Michelle Pfeiffer) arrive at their secluded home. Believe me, if I described any more of what happens, you wouldn’t even believe it.
mother! is one of the most ambitious, thought-provoking and simply, fucked up films you’re ever likely to see in the theater. If you’re expecting me to dissect this film, pull it apart and analyze it, you’re about to be disappointed. To properly analyze the film in it’s entirety, would takes days, months… hell, maybe even years.
Writer/Director Darren Aronofsky has made something that to call “bold” would be an understatement. This is a genuinely disturbing film that has enough symbolism and surreal images to fill the void of most David Lynch connoisseurs.
Shot on 16mm, which gives off a very 60’s, Polanski-esque vibe, the entirety of the film takes place in one house, which makes you feel claustrophobic after just 5 minutes.
Most of the focus is given to Lawrence who is in practically every frame of the movie. The camera stays either very close on her face, or over her shoulders, giving life to the claustrophobia her character is feeling.
Lawrence shows off a whole new side of her that audiences have never seen before. She’s a meek housewife who’s soft and vulnerable, and only begins to grow a backbone towards the last half of the film. This might also be her best performance to date. She’s constantly put through the ringer and despite not knowing much about her character, is always compelling,
Javier Bardem, who shows perhaps the most layers of anyone in the film, is equally impressive. As a poet stricken with writer’s block, Bardem is given the most in terms of complexity and always keeps you guessing as to what his true motives are. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer are welcome additions to the cast as the older, sex-crazed house guests and both get their moments to shine and often intrigue.
The sound design is used to perfection. Much of the unsettling imagery is amplified by the impeccable sound mixing, which, for my money, rivals that of Dunkirk as the most impressive of the year.
There’s a sadistic charm about this film that makes you want to figure it out. Aronofsky pushes the audiences’ buttons so much that some, probably most, will be offended, while other will laud his audacity to even go that far. Without giving away too much, he’s telling a story that tackles many different subjects like the limits of fame, god, the earth, depression, good and evil and many more that are sure to be found upon repeat viewings. This a film that will be analyzed and studied for years to come. It’s almost as satisfying thinking back and analyzing it as it is watching it. Don’t expect to understand everything as soon as you walk out of the theater. This film needs time to sit and process to get it’s true effect.
mother! is easily the most polarizing, daring and audacious film of 2017. This is a film that many will revere, while others will write off as sick, revolting and flat-out madness and those are some of the reasons why I love it. Take away all aspects of story and this is still an impeccably made film with gorgeous cinematography, masterful sound design and career-best work from Jennifer Lawrence. mother! is one film that you may not enjoy, but you definitely won’t forget.