‘mother!’ is a bold, divisive, thematically rich testament from Aronofsky

mother! (2017)

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

In a rustic homestead in the middle of a clearing, “Mother” (Jennifer Lawrence) and her older poet husband “Him” (Javier Bardem) live their seemingly idyllic life. But when a mysterious couple (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer), their two sons (real-life brothers Domhnall and Brian Gleeson), and then many, many strangers barge into their home and disrupt their life, you’ll see something more at play. Pfeiffer quips to Lawrence that the giant Victorian home, rebuilt from scratch after it burned down in a fire, “is all just setting.” But it’s way more than that. The house and the couple’s interactions with it are rich with religious and literary allegories about idol worship, the creation of art, and motherhood. What is taken from “mother!” will vary for each person, but nobody can deny its willingness to give.

Jennifer Lawrence in Mother! (2017)

The driving force of “mother!” is the mystery at its core. There are so many secrets, so many shared glances between Mother and Him that you know mean something more. Only when some of those questions are answered can you begin to put together what the point of the movie might be. For her part, Jennifer Lawrence perfectly conveys the dread that the audience is feeling. If the movie weren’t so weird and divisive, she may have a good shot at award season consideration. But “mother!” is writer/director Darren Aronofsky’s weirdest film since his heavy, thematic pet project “The Fountain” in 2006. Thankfully, this one is much more enjoyable and easier to understand.

On the technical side, “mother!” is nothing short of a masterpiece. Oscar-nominee Matthew Libatique is behind the camera like he has been for each of Aronofsky’s films with the exception of “The Wrestler.” His handheld camera never leaves Mother’s side. Technically, two-time Oscar-nominee Johann Johannsson (“Prisoners,” “Sicario”) is credited with composing the score to “mother!” but in reality, there’s not much music to be heard. Instead, the film is filled with the creaks and groans of the talkative old house, the sharp sounds indicating Mother’s pain and rage, and various other sound effects—glass shattering, doors slamming, wood burning, blood dripping. “mother!” is nothing without its many sounds.

“mother!” is intense, emotional, complicated, and at times infuriating. It’ll be divisive. I can’t tell you if you’ll love it or hate it. I can only say it’s worth finding out.


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