Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris, Kristen Wiig, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson
Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky
Cinematography by Matthew Libatique
I will begin this review by stating that Mother! might be Darren Aronofsky’s most personal film yet. Drawing parallels from Javier Bardem’s character to Aronofsky is ever present, yet the film’s religious overtones and undertones present a revised, shortened story of God. It’s a topic that is present throughout Aronofsky’s career, from Pi to Noah, moving from critiquing those who practice religion to the one being worshipped. However, it’s apparent Mother!, despite all of its imagery and allegories, is nothing more than Aronofsky’s pretension and his infatuation for Jennifer Lawrence walking around barefoot.
Much of the film centers around Jennifer Lawrence’s character in extreme close-ups as she wanders aimlessly through the house her and her husband, played by Javier Bardem, are renovating. Their marriage, like their home, needs improvement and work. Lawrence’s character, whose name is credited as Mother, begins to be at odds with her husband once he lets a drifter stay with them, played by Ed Harris. Mother! then begins to evolve into something that is much more than what is seen on the surface.
Mother shares a connection to the house, seeing the house decompose before her very eyes. Once the home begins to get overrun with people, Mother – the like home being ransacked by fans of her husband’s poetry – loses all control.
This is Aronofsky’s most Aronofsky picture yet with obnoxious direction and blocking to compensate for a boring film. Much of the marketing revolved around drawing parallels to Rosemary’s Baby and it’s apparent that film gave much inspiration by way of long-takes and a protagonist who does very little in her own story.
Lawrence’s nearly cold line delivery serves only to show the audience the vapidity of Aronofsky’s story. It’s script, which plays out like the director trying to find solace in a toxic relationship, uses shocking imagery to make the film that much more palatable.
Mother! isn’t scary in the slightest. I commend Aronofsky for not using jump scares to creep audiences out, unlike Andy Muschietti’s IT, instead he focuses on slowly building tension through confusion and concealment.
What helps in fleshing out the world is the excellent sound mixing. Creaking wood and dripping water in an aluminum sink feel as though it was captured in-camera. For every creak and ding, it booms through the speakers, adding to the tension. Much of the sounds heard in the house feel natural and organic and are used to ease into Johann Johannsson’s minimalist score.
Mother! scrutinizes uniformed religion in much the same way Rosemary’s Baby flips the old “it takes a village” adage on its head. Its attempt should be lauded and should be seen purely for a discussion amongst filmgoers. However, I can’t wholeheartedly say Mother! is a film that would be enjoyed.