Mother! (2017) – Review

A horrifying, claustrophobic, exquisite vision. 

As a novice in experiencing more abstract cinema, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan was a shock to my now further hardened system. Darkly erotic and stylish, it sticks with you long after you watch it. His latest film, Mother!, is an unstoppable attack on your senses and instincts, taking your breath and sanity from you in a clean, blazing sweep. Evidently, Aronofsky knows the buttons to press, in serious abundance.

A couple’s (Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem) peaceful existence in a gorgeous, desolate house is disturbed by two visitors, who’s cataclysmic arrival sets off a disturbing, uncontrollable series of events.

What’s most admirable is the dedication to the mise-en-scene. The house, a nightmare-scape in which you will spend the entirety of the two hours, is a living, breathing animal, connected to Jennifer Lawrence’s character as we see through flashes to a beating heart any time she touches the walls. Despite the house never changing drastically, you can feel it disintegrating along with the Lawrence’s temperament, due to the growing pain of her resentment for Javier’s affection-less “Him” (there’s no names in this film) and the flux of obnoxiously selfish visitors that continue to induce stress in both her and us. The house bleeds, and so do you.

Lawrence said that we will hate her after seeing this film, but really, that’s not the case at all. She is treated as a mere tool of enduring affection for her egotistical partner, who instead of assisting with rebuilding the glorious house, spends time tackling poetry in a fashion more angsty than inspiring. We watch as Lawrence walks round the house, often in first person to draw us closer into her life (helmed tactfully by cinematographer Matthew Libatique), but even in times where she seems calm, there’s a lingering dread. That’s no wonder though when the film opens with a fiery face and Bardem placing a mysterious crystal on a stand which breathes life into the household. Confused yet?

The two leads are expert performers, bringing different qualities to the role. Bardem still possesses an endless grip that we saw in No Country for Old Men and Skyfall, and Lawrence, an Oscar winner, handles the emotional weight of the escalating madness stunningly. Her screams at the film’s mad peak run through your ears and into your head, blurring your sense of comprehension.

© – Paramount Pictures
The introduction of the two visitors (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfieffer) turns up the heat drastically. As they become more comfortable in the home and you become more bemused, its hard not to admire their performances. Pfieffer is strikingly irritating, like that bitchy relative who’s always drunk at gatherings but, obviously, so much worse. Harris is a charmer, utilising a smile that wins over Bardem but evolves into something more alarming as time moves on.

The plot moves on briefly to a dull transition period. Attention may be lost at this point as Aronofsky dabbles in parenthood themes, but from here the chaos that ensues will have your heart leaping until eventually it bursts out you like a xenomorph. The first half is a delicious slice of psychological torment, but the latter half is a beast of unfathomable horror. A paranoid nightmare that made me near hyper-ventilate for a solid half hour.

It draws in on many inspirations, for example Aronofsky says The Exterminating Angel was a big influence. For me, it blended elements of The Wicker Man and Funny Games, with a touch of Kubrick and a large handful of Class-A drugs. There’s also the overwhelming religious undertone, which despite Aronofsky’s claim that it is a comment on the dying environment, is more noticeable.

A brilliant piece of cinema that requires a certain level of patience to endure. Disgusting, pretentious, anxiety-inducing, breathlessly bold and unforgettable.

Rating: ★★★★☆


Is Mother! magnificent, or an exercise in tasteless nonsense? Let us know what you thought in the comments, on our Facebook page or tweet us!

Published by

Cameron Frew

Freelance film writer. Words on Flickering Myth, Bloody Disgusting, Movie Corner UK and Jumpcut Online. My five favourite films are: 1. The Goonies 2. Forrest Gump 3. The Shawshank Redemption 4. Warrior 5. Whiplash

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