By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the polarizing reactions to Darren Aronofsky’s horror-freakout film, “mother!,” and you may have already drawn your own conclusion about whether or not you’ll be seeing the Jennifer Lawrence-starring film in theaters – if at all.
It has been the cause of audience confusion, offense, and walkouts, and even earned a rare “F” Cinemascore (a rating of audience’s reactions leaving the movie). So clearly, people are divided on the film.
However, one can argue that the sign of any good film is the impression it leaves on its audience, whether it be one of love or even hate. To this standard, Aronofsky has succeeded in not only making a successful film, but having written and directed one of the most polarizing and divisive movies of recent times, proving the power that cinema has to elicit debate, physical reactions, and psychological head trips that last far beyond the film’s 2-hour run time.
Aronofsky (“The Wrestler,” “Black Swan”) is a modern father of unconventional storytelling and “mother!” is no exception. The story centers on a young woman (named lowercase “mother”) (Jennifer Lawrence) and her older husband (named uppercase), Him (Javier Bardem), an acclaimed poet. The couple lives alone, isolated from the rest of society in his childhood home which she willingly renovates while he works on his writing. Their quaint life of solitude comes to an abrupt halt when a man (Ed Harris) shows up at the couple’s door with more baggage than just his belongings.
It is a punch to the gut; it will push you out of your comfort zone and it will make you question humanity and the true intentions of your neighbors and friends altogether.
The couple’s life turns upside down as their sacred space gets encroached upon by the man, and then his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) – and then hoards of unwanted guests. The guests idolize Him: as fans of his writing, they worship his every word, even if it comes at mother’s expense. This becomes too much for her, whose generosity and kind spirit is abused, disrespected, and all around disregarded, at times even subconsciously by her own husband. As she nears her breaking point, mayhem becomes imminent, and what ensues is the most shocking and head-spinning of circumstances seen onscreen this year.
Allegorical themes and symbolism run rampant throughout the film, yet are best left to be discovered organically. That is the gift of “mother!”: it goes far beyond just the surface. Javier Bardem gives a performance that is captivatingly creepy with mystery lurking just beyond his signature stare. Jennifer Lawrence is a subtle thunderstorm, starting off restrained and building towards a crescendo that only she could create. Her performance is nothing shy of phenomenal.
To say “mother!” has been grossly misunderstood by the masses is an understatement. It should be applauded for its unwavering commitment to breaking the stereotypical and formulaic Hollywood tropes. It is a punch to the gut; it will push you out of your comfort zone and it will make you question humanity and the true intentions of your neighbors and friends altogether. “mother!” will unnerve you and shock you, and the best part is, it will reaffirm your faith in the magic and power that movies still hold in serving as a reflection of the equally shocking times in which we live in.
“mother!” is rated R for strong disturbing violent content, some sexuality, nudity, and language. 121 minutes. Now playing in theaters.