Javier Bardem

mother! (2017)

I am of the opinion that if a film manages to divide audiences far and wide, then that is a measure of a good film. And with that in mind it was always going to be intriguing going into mother! due to the response that it had garnered. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Darren Aronofsky’s latest offering, especially as Noah was his last feature.

Aronofsky has affection for biblical matters when telling a narrative, clearly seen by Noah, but he continues this theme in mother! although this time not as clear cut. It opens with Him (Javier Bardem) placing a crystal on a pedestal and the house begins to renovate itself around him, and upstairs Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) forms and begins to wander the idyllic house.

Him is currently suffering from writers block and moved out to the idyllic house with his wife to find solace to once again start working. But Aronofsky immediately establishes that Mother has a connection with the house she has helped rebuild from the ashes as she almost feel the beating heart of the house.

Immediately it’s clear that Jennifer Lawrence was going to be the focal point (irrespective of being the titular character) as Aronofksy focuses the camera around Mother, whether on her face or her being the focal point of the shot. She plays this fantastically from the nuanced movements in her body language, to the explosion of emotion that she experiences later on.

Having the house in such an isolated setting, there is a certain silence that encompasses the screen. With that in mind, the sound design in mother! is absolutely fantastic, that you hear the floorboards creaking around the house giving the film creepy overtures.

And those creepy overtures continue to occur when Man (Ed Harris) comes knocking on the isolated door. Immediately Mother takes a dislike to him, but Him implores her to allow him to stick around as he finds his stories fascinating. As Man makes himself at home by smoking and having general disregard for the house, Mother begins to feel the effects and feels an aggressive pain. Again, linking to that Mother is connected to the house in some regard.

Man then invites his wife into the house, and as she makes herself at home, Mother feels a toxic presence in the house, which is typified by the heartbeat Mother feels in the walls begins to turn black. Suddenly everything goes south for Mother, as Man and Woman’s (Michelle Pfeffier) two sons rock up to the house and overcome with rage, the older son (Domnhall Gleeson) kills his younger brother (Brian Gleeson) in a Cain and Abel-esque way.

And the allegorical meanings continue throughout the film, but Aronofsky manages to cleverly include this in the narrative in a way where it doesn’t seem to overbearing for the story to continue. As well as having the narrative firmly footed in biblical meanings with the story of Cain and Abel and the following Him experiences with his writings, Aronofsky continues to make it feel incredibly poignant for the world we’re living in today.

As the writings of Him have this profound effect, the house Mother and Him live suddenly descends into chaos. From the whirlwind of the success of the poem, to the house almost becoming a hive for human trafficking and then a warzone, which echoes the stories that enter the news daily.

I thought what has been created was incredibly brilliant and really imaginative way of telling the story. Time becomes a big significance in this story, as it feels as though it unfolds in a matter of days, whilst the telling the story that spans hundreds of years. Aronofsky also managed to create an incredible timeframe within mother! as it was difficult to establish when the film was set, featuring both contemporary features, but also having a feel of a historic feeling to the story.

mother! manages to effectively get under your skin with the films allegorical readings into it. The big takeaway from this film is that everyone can read the film differently, which is probably the reasoning for the divisive reactions thus far. But I felt Aronofsky really had his footing superb with this film. The cast members also significantly help him throughout the two-hour runtime.

They all give terrific performances, especially Jennifer Lawrence moving from the nuanced features to the invigorating protector of the house. And Ed Harris plays his role to perfection and continues to hit the mark regardless of what he does. I think the real winner with mother! is how the story is told though, Aronofsky’s grip on the narrative keeps you entertained throughout and the way it is revealed is just fantastic.

mother! is definitely a film that is going to stay with you regardless of the viewings because of the magnitude of what occurs on screen. It’ll continue to divide audiences, but one thing is for sure, it will surely get some award nods come that time. I thought the audience rating of F was unfair especially as I found it to be A truly wonderful piece of filmmaking and deserving of the plaudits.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge drew no attention from me, and offered very little to try and ‘woo’ me into watching it. Majority of my interest of this franchise was soon lost after the second instalment of Dead Man’s Chest. I find the Pirate of the Caribbean franchise entering realms of similarity with Fast and the Furious with the rinse and repeat formula.

Salazar’s Revenge is taking this rinse and repeat formula and caking it on by the pounds. I’ve become disenchanted with the figure of Captain Jack Sparrow, as Johnny Depp seems to be offering new to the character, but rather a further drunken stupor.

In the presence of rinse and repeat formula, Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg have decided to take the Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner roles and replace them with Kaya Scodelario and Brenton Thwaites. However, Ronning and Sandberg had a role reversal, with Scodelario’s Carina Smyth as a smart young woman, who shows a deft hand at keeping out of trouble. Whereas Brenton Thwaites’ Henry Turner just offers the run-of-the-mill love story, replicated from the first instalment.

Majority of the performances throughout the 130(ish) runtime, are very mundane and uninteresting. Aside from Scodelario’s performance as Carina, I found myself bored with the characters as they fall into very two-dimensional characters and offer nothing new.

I imagine this is potentially down to the world building not being that immersive either. If anything Salazar’s Revenge offered a truly ridiculous world where pirates once ruled the seas. The film had lost me at the point where Salazar (Javier Bardem) releases undead sharks. I mean, come on.

Seriously.

Salazar in his own right was an intriguing character, but there was nothing built around him as Ronning and Sandberg layered the film with exposition and the cast pointing out the plot to one another over and over and over. His revenge of Captain Jack Sparrow could have been played out brilliantly, rather than becoming the lacklustre affair it is.

As for Salazar’s curse, there wasn’t that much to be invested in as majority of the screen time is faced with Jack Sparrow and his quest for the Trident of Poseidon to break his run of bad luck. And it seems as though the curse isn’t that original either with the undead wreaking havoc once more.

I think therein lies my issue with Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge as it becomes very lacklustre. I often found myself bored throughout the plus 2-hour runtime and very bored with the over-egged performance of Jack Sparrow. The plot doesn’t do a great deal of justice to the massive runtime, and doesn’t offer anything that hasn’t already been witnessed in the previous instalments.

I tried to go into Salazar’s Revenge with an open mind, but left still disappointed as I mentioned it did little to peak my interest in the first place. Aside from Scodelario’s performance, there was little else to enjoy about this film. I find the investment in this film just was not there for me. Everything that could’ve potentially immersed me, did not, from the characters to the CGI. It’s fair to say Salazar’s Revenge just did not do it for me.