- Jennifer Lawrence as Mother
- Javier Bardem as Him
- Michelle Pfeiffer as Woman
- Ed Harris as Man
- Domhnall Gleeson as Oldest Son
- Brian Gleeson as Younger Brother
- Kristen Wiig as Herald
A delirious and disturbing horror/drama movie that both enthralls and annoys, Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! is the definition of a divisive movie. I remember hearing all the buzz about the movie being one of the riskiest studio releases in a long time, and I won’t argue there. But the film squarely falls into a mixed category as to its value and what it is trying to say to us.
An unnamed couple( referred to in the credits as Mother and Him) live in a large, isolated house somewhere in the country. Mother is a domestic goddess who is refurbishing the home, as we learn there was once a fire many years before that ruined the place. She is supportive of her much older husband, a poet with a severe case of writer’s block, but a lot of the time the love seems one-sided. She seems to always praise him and be there, while he isn’t the most forthcoming in approval or thanks to his wife. Their relatively tranquil existence is disturbed by a late-night knock at the door. There is an ageing doctor who says he has mistaken their house for a bed and breakfast. Mother is against letting him stay as he is a stranger, but Him is adamant that they cater to the man. The next day his wife appears and almost immediately begins to stir trouble for Mother. However, Him seems to revel in the company of these intruders, much to the annoyance and pain suffered by Mother. Gradually, everything begins spinning out of control for Mother as yet more people descend on the house and all manner of shocking events take hold, completed by Him basking in a new batch of inspiration.
Darren Aronofsky is the man behind the camera and script. He’s always been a director who knows how to shock and disturb cinema goers with his content, from Requiem for a Dream to Black Swan. I will say that Aronofsky builds up tension rather nicely with Mother! before unleashing an abundance of sheer craziness that will have you considering what you just saw. Credit where it’s due, Aronofsky crafts something extremely polarizing and material that is bound to get people talking. But there are certain areas that don’t quite add up and make the film feel bloated as a result. Aronofsky is clearly trying to say a lot of things, but at its heart, Mother! gets extremely esoteric. That’s not to say that any thematic material is gone( there is clear biblical parallels in the story and notions on inspiration), but it feels like an overload and that he is biting off more than he can chew in a good few ways. Plus, you can’t help but feel that Aronofsky is trying to be too clever and too self-indulgent with this movie. Mother! is a film that is hard to forget for sure, especially in the latter half. With the house being bombarded by intruders, everything including the kitchen sink is thrown at the viewer as all manner of hellish act is realised and put on us. Adding to this is the burnt gold of the cinematography and frequent closeness of the camera to Lawrence, exuding a claustrophobic air to everything. There is a distinct lack of a musical score here; Mother! utilises sound effects and unusual noises to bring out the eeriness of the piece in a rather successful manner.
One part of Mother! that cannot be faulted is the acting from the relatively small cast. Jennifer Lawrence ideally plays the lead, whose existence and sanity come under severe threat as the movie progresses. Starting out quiet, subtle and demure, before her mind unravels and she goes into alarming intensity and harrowing confusion, Lawrence gives the part her all and succeeds greatly with what she brings to the screen. On screen in almost every frame, Jennifer Lawrence sells the intense nature of Mother! brilliantly. Javier Bardem at his most lupine is effectively creepy and selfish as the husband whose inspiration seems to arise from the chaos surrounding him and his young wife. Michelle Pfeiffer is a wicked delight in a keen supporting part. Playing the intrusive, forthright and ever so feline woman who begins making her presence felt in Mother’s life, she’s devilishly toxic and strangely seductive to watch. Her and Ed Harris( whose enigmatic and equally as good) don’t have a lot of time on screen, but boy do they make the most of what they have! The same can be said of the Gleeson brothers who star as brawling siblings whose violence leads us into the second act of the movie. And appearing in a startling but entertaining cameo is Kristen Wiig.
Mother! as a movie is an extremely shocking experience, that is both hard to tear yourself away from and equally as repellent. I seem to fall into the middle ground of the consensus on this movie. While I will say that the direction is stylish and provocative and the acting is of a high standard, I must also bring forward that it’s a movie that often has too much going on, leading it to be hollow in the grand scheme of things. A movie that splits opinion is the best way to describe what Mother! is.