STARRING: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris & Michelle Pfeiffer
WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY: Darren Aronofsky
mother! has been booed at Venice, divided the opinions of critics and has people walking out of the cinema moaning that they have wasted their money on a load of nonsense. This reviewer came out enthused about the whole experience and desperate to talk about it with someone after going into lockdown apart from watching the trailer. One day later, trying to find the time to watch it again and cracking open every article or hot take piece on the movie, it’s an effort to assimilate all the different opinions and viewpoints on Darren Aronofsky’s latest film.
The less said about the plot the better for anyone seeking out this movie; it’s hard to discuss but easy to spoil. The film is broken into two similar and parallel parts as we focus on Lawrence’s mother and Javier Bardem’s Him. The lowercase and capital letters tell you much about their relationship; one an older frustrated poet and the other a young and trampled-on wife. Both living in a house that has been built back up after a horrific fire, mother is working hard to bring it back to its former glory as the frustrated Him tries to overcome his writers block with a simmering frustration between the couple. It all starts to spill over and escalate once Man and The Woman (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) come a rocking to their home in the middle of a garden party.
Interpretation is key when looking at mother! Many people will examine themes of religion, from plagues to the Bible. For me, as someone who works in mental health, it felt like an incredible metaphor for the social anxiety and sensory issues that come with autism. In this climate, our safe spaces and environments are at risk from outside forces whether they are political, our own personal mental health or prying eyes both close and online. An unlimited amount of screenings would yield just as many different interpretations of this movie and that wildly excites me.
Too often online in film discussion, we are debating the merits of franchise or blockbuster movies with the most literal of interpretations and have to argue about the “threat” of Rotten Tomatoes or “did Mickey Mouse or Roger Rabbit buy a certain critic to praise a comic book movie?”. Like or hate mother!, it is so exciting to have a large debate about a film *be* about the film, what people took from it and if the film worked. Paramount and Aronofsky’s approach to a movie, which feels bereft of endless studio notes and a disturbing promotional campaign, has given us a movie to debate, dissect and disagree upon.
The frantic and intense cinematography from Matthew Libatique keeps Lawrence front and centre throughout. Every frustration, every ignored plea, every sensory overload and slight is shared with her, and we can’t escape the house and her personal hell. The sound design and camera work allow us to be as unsettled as Lawrence, who gives such an incredible performance, and she shines once again when paired with a director who just doesn’t let her deliver the a-typical Jennifer Lawrence performance or phone in a bored role in a franchise series.
mother! is such a triumph. I am counting down the days before watching it again, being able to enjoy it at my own leisure on home video, and to talk about it among friends. Aronofsky’s picture will split opinions but arguably the director would not want it any other way and in doing so, he’s delivered one of the most ambitious and unique original films of the year, and that’s a hill worth dying on.
mother! is out now at your nearest cinema.