Mother!, written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, is a drama/mystery about unexpected guests disrupting the seemingly perfect life of a writer and hi
Mother!, written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, is a drama/mystery about unexpected guests disrupting the seemingly perfect life of a writer and his wife in a remote cabin. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer; none of the characters have names, only titles.
I usually try to avoid trailers in general, especially for movies I’m interested in as they divulge too much about the plot, skewing my expectation and bias. Usually, I fail at this seemingly simple task and this movie was no exception. Before my screening of It, they played an almost Super Bowl-esque trailer that gave away a few dispersed shots followed by a billowing announcer calling it crazy and controversial. It Comes At Night had this same marketing campaign and was a slow-burn drama about the effects of paranoia rather than a loud and gory screamfest, so I didn’t know what to think. Controversial as an adjective in marketing talk is almost always a positive spin on bad reviews by the distributor to make sure ticket sales don’t dip. But, I was lucky enough to catch a pre-screening of the movie about two days before its general release so there weren’t reviews from any major or reliable sources telling me what to expect, so I was basically going in blind with only context that it was a horror movie with Jennifer Lawrence. This movie is not horror, it is more of an art-house thriller with a studio budget applying deceptive marketing techniques to get the average moviegoer into a seat, leaving them disappointed with the outcome. That is really my only major gripe with this movie; its marketing.
Plainly put, this movie is polarizing, some people are going to love it and some people are going to absolutely hate it. If I were to describe this movie briefly it would be a visual manifestation of a nightmare. The movie begins very tranquil but slowly becomes frustrating and eventually devolves into manic and feverish glimpses of chaos preying upon the worst anxieties of our protagonist. Much like in a nightmare, she is merely a passenger, experiencing every horror but never having an impact on the outcome. To say that the movie heavily utilizes metaphor and symbolism is very reductive, the movie is a metaphor. That is what stands to be the major divider as to the polarizing reviews, if viewers aren’t able to pick up on these major themes then they will be left angry and confused, believing that the movie is purely a series of disjointed events made to seem like horror but never quite reaching it.
Regardless of if viewers were lost in the thematic sea of metaphors, no one can deny the incredibly stunning and effective camerawork and cinematography. All of the shots are close and claustrophobic, zooming in on Mother’s face showing her reaction to every event that transpires. I particularly appreciate the slow establishing shots of the first five minutes as she confusedly wanders her home, creating a context for the eventual chaos. The later half of the movies’ editing and pacing is some of the most impressive I have seen in recent cinema. Constant motion and imagery that leaves viewers on the edge of their seat, waiting for the next breath of air that will likely never come. The composition of the shots were at times very dense and highly coordinated, showcasing Aronofsky’s prowess as a director in executing his vision.
As for the performances, there were no weak links in this movie. Everyone shined in one way or another; even Jennifer Lawrence, who in recent memory, has given lackluster performances that seem as though she is just reading off a script. From her expressions to her delivery of honest confusion and anger, she was believable. Javier Bardem was pretty creepy and Ed Harris was stellar as usual but the true shining star, performance wise, was Michelle Pfeiffer. She gives one of my favorite performances this year, characterizing this unapologetic and aggravating jerk, making viewers connect with Mother in disbelief and anger.
When I walked out of the movie I was in shock, my head was spinning and I was almost certain that I had hated it. I started looking at other reviews and they all seemed to be raving, I wasn’t sure that we had seen the same movie. I was angry, I marked it as watched on Letterboxd and gave it 1.5 stars and called it a night. It was after an hour of research the next day that I stumbled upon an interview with some of the actors talking about the production where they explained the movie’s main theme, and then it clicked. I had a complete change of face, I started to think about its biblical parallels and how well it connected that allegory to the environment, characters reenacting biblical scenes. I mean, the movie is called mother!(nature).
Overall, the movie is a stunning piece of work visually and should be seen on that basis alone, but it’s well executed symbolism and performances sealed the deal of making this one of my top 5 movies that I’ve seen this year. I can’t help but feel as though it were long winded and occasionally quite pretentious and alienating at times. Regardless, I had a blast and I will definitely try to see it again in theaters before it ends its run, which will likely be ending soon with an F grading on Cinemascore.
I give mother! an 8.5/10