mother! Film Review

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Jennifer Lawrence stars in mother!  which heavily contributed to the movie’s significant hype.

Gloria Han, Maroon-News Staff

I scrolled past several Buzzfeed articles discussing mother!, a couple of which mentioned the movie’s negative reception that caused Paramount Studios to release a statement defending the film. I decided to see what all this hype was about, and I certainly understand it now. Director Darren Aronofsky generally incites both acclaim and controversy for his movies (see Black Swan and Noah) for their dark, disturbing and bizarre content, and mother! is no exception. 

The characters in mother! remain unnamed throughout, and are labelled quite vaguely in the credits. Nonetheless, the film revolves around the primary character “Mother” (Jennifer Lawrence), a young woman married to a writer, “Him” (Javier Bardem), both of whom live in the dilapidated house of his past. Mother spends her days renovating the house into a home while her husband struggles to overcome his writer’s block. One day, a man (Ed Harris) shows up at the door, asking for a place to stay; Him readily accedes, to the annoyance of his wife, who is all the while experiencing strange visions and medical instability. From this moment forward, a myriad of chaotic events ensues.

The cinematography, visuals and sound are absolutely striking. The movement of the camera, and the shots (particularly the close-ups) both restrict and intensify our view of the world of the characters in the best, most mysterious way. The colors are dim and creepy, making Lawrence’s hair even appear gray, adding to the suspense of the film. Sound is skillfully integrated, ranging from heartbeats to shouting crowds and high-pitched dissonances. It is hard to deny that mother! is indeed a very artistic film. The performances are also predictably impressive. Lawrence’s portrayal garnered mixed reviews, but I think she showcased her versatility as an actress. She diverges away from her bold, forceful roles to one characterized more by vulnerability and confusion. The supporting cast of Bardem, Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer also does not disappoint. 

I researched some of the themes of the movie because, quite frankly, I wasn’t sure I saw any that were consistent. According to the cast and crew, the film is a biblically structured allegory, both in plot and character. This notion did not occur to me in the movie, but makes a lot of sense now. Others have interpreted the film to represent the artistic process of creation, gender roles and conflicts and different political ideologies. All these interpretations are valid, especially considering Aronofsky’s talent for complexity and multiplicity. However, I would argue that it is all a little bit too much for the average viewer. 

I came out of mother! feeling a little disturbed, and not at all satisfied. The beginning leads one to believe that the story functions as a horror mystery and/or psychological thriller, but it ended up being neither of those. Rather, it was just messy. The last half hour feels like a compilation of strange, unsettling images, without any transitions. Too much is thrown in front of the audience at once, and no one knows what to do with all of it. I was honestly relieved when it was over. I can however, appreciate the film’s distinctiveness and visual style, and admit I would have enjoyed it more had I connected it with a biblical narrative. Still, I probably wouldn’t recommend mother! to anyone solely seeking light entertainment. But if you don’t mind being slightly traumatized, and appreciate originality, this may be the movie for you.

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