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.