Where do you start with mother!? Darren Aronofsky’s latest is as much a mystery as a film, and its advertising campaign has aimed to create confusion rather than clarity. The director wants you to go in with as little information as possible and discover this twisted journey for yourself.
And who am I to go against the director’s wishes? The briefest synopsis of the plot possible is that the film follows Jennifer Lawrence as her and Javier Bardem’s home is visited by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer. Despite these two being total strangers, they end up staying. Any more would be telling and, quite frankly, it would take a few thousand words to even scratch the surface.
When I say the film follows Lawrence, I mean it too. For the whole two hours we rarely, if ever, leave her side. We are tied to her, sometimes staring into her eyes and other times perched on her shoulder. It turns the beautiful house that this film makes its home into a claustrophobic and unsettling place. You constantly feel like you have stepped into someone else’s personal space and you can see every thought in their eyes.
Which in turn needs one hell of a performance from the actor, and Lawrence gives it. She is incredible. Her character, credited only as mother, could easily be dismissed. Bardem, credited as Him, is a writer and views her as his muse. Meanwhile, she spends her days trying to make everything perfect for him. She’s constantly attempting to nurture those around her and take on every frivolous task for herself. It would be so easy for her to become a weak character and for us to scream at her in frustration. In Lawrence’s eyes, however, we find someone we care about. You live every moment with this woman and can’t help but empathise with her.
The aforementioned house has a part to play too, switching between being Eden and Hell on Earth. There are a hundred allegorical readings to be made of this film and a lot of them centre around that building. The world seems to be encapsulated within its walls and whether Aaronofsky is focusing on religion or the environment, the house is almost as important as the cast.
It’s a hell of a cast too, and Lawrence isn’t alone in impressing. Bardem flourishes in the role of the creator. He’s extravagant gestures and mood swings backed up by a craving for attention. Pfeiffer, meanwhile, is sour and angry. Her character symbolises the introduction of chaos into their lives and she embraces the anger that torments the soul of her unnamed role.
mother! is an anxiety dream of a film as normal days unravel in ways that don’t make sense. Things come unhinged, the world goes to madness and there is nothing that you can do. You scream and shout, but it doesn’t matter how beautiful it all is, it isn’t listening to you. It’s easy to see why some people have taken against this film. It’s hard to watch and it is so intent on playing with its own mysteries that you can get lost in it and be left confused. However, if you can pick through all of that, there is something special at the heart of this film. It’s beautiful and it’s twisted and it has a message worth learning.
Verdict: Hall of Fame