So what is it I’ve always said? Darren Aronofsky is my favorite director, not because he has the greatest movies ever, but because he tries more daringly than any other “mainstream” director. His filmmaking dares you to feel like you have a grasp on things before hitting new bizarre heights. In Noah he explored faith and belief in the realm of environmental disaster. In a way, this is a bookend to that, much like Black Swan and The Wrestler are two sides of the same deranged coin.
The movie mother! stars Jennifer Lawrence as a young lady living in a house in the middle of nowhere with her older husband played by Javier Bardem. He is an older man, and a successful writer, but struggles to write his new masterwork of poetry. He is a creator and a poet, but he is isolated and odd. He seemingly cares more for his own work than his wife.
She has restored the house, his family house, from a burnt wreck into a beautiful place to live. Everything she does, it is to support her husband. But odd things happen. Beating hearts live in the wall in her mind, and she suffers from some sort of vertigo, which can only be cured by drinking a mysterious yellow medicine. The poet struggles while the wife tries to be supportive.
And then the house is invaded, first by an older man (Ed Harris) and then his wife (Michelle Pfieffer). They are obsessed fans, but they are mysterious in their intent. It all begins to fall apart when the couple’s sons (real brothers Brian and Domhnall Gleeson) appear to fight over the father’s will. The mother and father, and the two sons. The poet and the first woman, the mother who cannot be a mother.
Because Jennifer’s character wants a child, but the pregnancy leads to insanity. She has finally helped the poet be inspired to write a new work, but then the house gets new guests, overwhelmingly so. And the movie goes insane.
The story creeps and crawls at first, in the manner of eerie horror, with scary imagery and mysterious motives. This is effective and startling, but then the movie goes mad. It is hard to say whether or not this works. But what cannot be argued is how good Jennifer Lawrence is in this — the movie lingers on her face as she talks, thinks, and acts. She feels pain and joy and horror, and she is magnificent.
There are multiple layers of metaphor and allegory, from the obvious to the less obvious, on the themes of art and fandom to broken faith and self-aggrandizement. Javier Bardem’s poet is mysterious and an unknown entity, but he is so good as well. All the acting is excellent, including Michelle Pfeiffer vamping it up more than I’ve seen her do in a while.
Unfortunately I feel like I can’t delve into the specifics of the movie without ruining the experience; that said, this is not a movie for most people. It is engrossing and engaging but horrifying to watch. It is daunting and intriguing but difficult and painful. It plays with your mind and makes fun of you for not getting it immediately.
This is not my favorite Aronofsky movie, which is still The Wrestler, which is also the movie that happens to be the most grounded in reality. But it is still built on more levels than most filmmakers dare. He has often played with the supernatural, sometimes more than other times, but I think this may be his most divisive movie yet. If that sounds interesting, maybe give it a try. You’ll be disturbed, but perhaps in a good way.
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mother! has a run time of 2 hours 1 minutes and is rated R for strong disturbing violent content, some sexuality, nudity and language.