Mother! (2017)

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Director: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem

Review Author: Shaun

Rating: 3.8 / 5 Black swans on Noah’s Ark

In recent years, Darren Aronofsky has turned himself into a mainstream experimental filmmaker due to his overuse of metaphorical imagery combined with what is essentially a mundane premise. But that’s the beauty of his work, he can create surrealism from the most normal premise. In the case of mother! The premise is of a couple wanting to create their own paradise. This concept is connectable for many audience members which creates the effect of calm before the storm.

Jennifer Lawrence, known in the film as Mother, is fantastic. Her performance reminded me of her earlier acting career when she was performing in little indie films like Winter’s Bone. In a perceptibly short acting career, she has left an impression on Hollywood and this performance solidifies that reputation. Not only that, you can tell through her delivery that this is a very caring performance for both her character and the film itself.

Earlier this year, In my Pirates of the Caribbean 5 review, I expressed that everything that made Javier Bardem intimidating was absent. We now get to see the Javier Bardem we’ve come to expect. Simply known as Him, Bardem’s character has a tendency of being very open with other people, whom he invites into the house that Mother is rebuilding. Him is more of an extrovert while Mother is an introvert. Early on we can see the wheels rolling for the conflict that develops between the two.

What metaphors are explored in mother!.  The simple answer is a bit of everything. You have religion, war, terrorism, nature and motherhood just to name a few. Due to the fact that so many conclusions can be reached and there is no truly definite meaning, mother! is destined to be a film that will be talked about for years to come. Film theorists and analysts will be battling for the true meaning behind it.

The film is set in one location, the house, which has a connection to Mother. The literal interpretation is this house is Eden but Aronofsky does not make it as simple as that. Two other interpretations I could come up with is the house is the living, breathing body and soul of Mother. Home is where the heart is, quite literally in the case of mother! as we are shown multiple times the image of a beating heart beyond the walls. The second interpretation is that this house is like a baby to Mother. Mother dreams of a child with Him, but Him is far to occupied with his guests and his new book. Again, this is the rambling words of myself, it is up to the audience to reach their own conclusions.

Surprisingly, mother! has no accompanying soundtrack. This choice gives off an indie vibe and prepares us for the type of film we can expect to see. However, many indie/art-house films usually have a very slow pacing, whereas mother! has a very fast chain of events. The central conflict of the narrative is presented in under ten mins .  It’s an incredibly short amount of time getting to know these characters and explain whats dividing them. Initially, It is slightly off-putting to the viewing experience but once you catch up the film has an offbeat pace which escalates and escalates.

This is a relentless film because of the placing of the metaphors in the narrative. The first act of the film is quite settling and comfortable as we only get glimpses of surreal imagery. But towards the end of the film, the imagery and metaphors get decidedly bleaker and more visceral. The constant bombardment of surreal imagery is almost too much to take in and that may certainly be the case to some viewers. There is virtually no easing or transition period for the audience to prepare them for such an escalation into such a graphic and manic film.

Overall, mother! grabs you by the neck and refuses to let go. The overpowering style of Aronofsky is not for the faint-hearted. For those who think they can take it, you are treated to a unique viewing experience that will have you arguing about what it all meant. Putting that point to one side, the rest of the elements of the film were above par with excellent cinematography and performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. I not even sure that Aronofsky can comprehend the type of film mother! is. Even Jennifer Lawrence has commented that the film when too far. Ultimately that’s for you to decide.

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