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Film Review – mother! (2017)

After a self-imposed sabbatical, Darren Aronofsky is back to entertain (?) with his next movie, mother!  With him are two of the most talented actors in the business, Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem.  Aronofsky movies haven’t been the most pleasant pieces of art, but his films are always a major talking point between members of the film community.  In this instance, mother! is no different.  The following review will be spoiler free.

mother!

Synopsis

As previously mentioned, mother! is directed by Darren Aronofsky and stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem with Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer in supporting roles.

Mother (Lawrence) and Him (Bardem) have recently moved back into their house that was burned down for unknown reasons.  As Mother works on making the house their “paradise,” Bardem struggles as a poet with a serious bout of writer’s block.  As the story progresses, a strange man (Harris) enters their home to Mother’s disapproval, quickly followed by a woman (Pfeiffer) that seems to have less than ideal motivations.

However, as events unfold, we quickly learn that basically nothing is what it seems.

Background

Upon wrapping production for Noah back in 2014, Darren Aronofsky actually started working on a children’s movie, but exclaimed that he couldn’t quite crack it.  For the sanity of children everywhere, I’m glad he moved onto this project.

As Aronofsky described, the story for mother! came to him in a “fever dream.”  Thoughts bombarded his mind, causing him to finish the first draft of the film in only five days.  Upon the release of the film to critics, Aronofsky explained that he was distraught with the world, unable to handle its issues in regards to climate change, politics, and many other hot topics.

In fact, Darren Aronofsky himself has explained that the movie may not be the most streamlined.  In an interview, the director of Black Swan exclaimed that “if you try to unscrew it, it kind of falls apart.”  He went on to say that “it’s a psychological freak-out.  You shouldn’t over-explain it.”

After learning of this information, I quickly shared the sentiment of many critics.  What the hell was I in for?

*Disclaimer* – This Movie is NOT What You Think It is

If the background info wasn’t enough for you to realize this fact, I’ll come right out and say it.

For those who are looking forward to seeing this movie based off of the trailers that paint this movie as a horror film, you will leave this film very disappointed.  This film is not a psychological horror.  This film is not a different interpretation of Rosemary’s Baby.  In fact, there’s really no category that mother! can fit within.

mother! is one giant metaphor.  Well, not exactly, it’s actually multiple metaphors and allegories that fit within other metaphors and allegories to create a bizarre vomit of ideas.  Each person that sees this movie will have some different interpretation of it.  There’s biblical discussion interwoven with talk of nature and a general view of this supposed terrible world that we live in.  The synopsis I gave earlier in this review doesn’t really give this film justice.  In fact, I doubt that any general synopsis could truly represent this film without diving into spoiler territory.

Solid Performances May By the Only Tangible Items

The one thing that this critic can truly lock down is that they’re solid performances to behold.  After a few films where Jennifer Lawrence was seemingly phoning it in, she has thankfully reverted to form in mother!.  For the majority of mother!‘s run time, the camera has close-ups that are completely focused on Lawrence, forcing her to be on her game at all times.  mother! is essentially her reaction to a series of bonkers and metaphorical sequences that take place.  Without a committed performance, many might exclaim that mother! is the worst movie of the year (some people might even say that regardless).  Every actor gives a committed performance, for that matter.

Everything is else something that no one besides Aronofsky will lock down completely.  There’s some great camera work and utilization of grainy footage that set the scene nicely, but it’s that scene that is set that will raise questions.

“Pretentious” May be an Understatement

There’s a prevailing thought that if an artistic film is called “pretentious,” that person just doesn’t “get” the film.  That may be true in some instances, but the term definitely fits here.  As Aronofsky explained himself, mother! is a purging of one’s inner thought.  In the end, it amounts to a film that that contains messages that directly conflict with other messages.  To top it off, many of these ideas are horribly on the nose.  When you add in a tedious sense of pacing and story composition, mother! amounts to a punishing film that too much to say without honing in on something for you to leave the theater and think about.

Aronofsky’s mother! is a film that the term “experimental” just doesn’t explain.  Ultimately, mother! becomes over the top and just downright vulgar making you wonder, did I really need to see that?

That being said, you might find this film amazingly profound, leaving me to look like an idiot.

mother! is bonkers.  That’s about as concrete as this review will get.

Final Thoughts

Every so often, there’s one of those movies in which everyone will have a different interpretation.  mother! is a prime example of this notion.  Acting almost as a Russian nesting doll of metaphors and allegories, mother! can be admired for its pure ambition.  However, one must question: why?  In this critic’s humble opinion, mother! is a film that contains countless conflicting messages and themes and results in a punishing experience that you probably shouldn’t have to pay to see.  It gets a C-.

There’s no doubting that there’s some serious auteurship behind this film, but it feels like Aronofsky was just out to make a movie to quell his inner anguish rather than leave the audience with with some type of emotional experience.

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Thanks for reading!  What are your thoughts on mother!?  Comment down below!

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*Quotations via The Guardian

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Nick Kush

A current young professional, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society. You can follow Nick at the official MovieBabble Twitter account @MovieBabble_

13 Responses

  1. grrgoyl says:

    I have to say, I’ve never understood film fans’ adoration of Aronofsky. I think Black Swan was the last time I gave him a chance (and I think I didn’t realize it was his — or at that point I hadn’t yet equated him with “don’t waste your time”). Let me reassure you, the problem probably isn’t that you “don’t get it.” “Pretentious” and “punishing” are pretty spot-on terms that can apply to any of his dreck. Great review!

    • Nick Kush says:

      Thanks so much! Especially with mother, there wasn’t much to get lol. It came to be a bunch of metaphors that result in no cathartic thought.

  2. Could you follow my site please

  3. 2singlemums says:

    Thank you for this. I’ve been asking after this title after seeing a large portrait of Mother by King’s Cross Station which apparently (if I’d have had data) made the picture move. I’m now even more intrigued!

    • Nick Kush says:

      Hmmm that’s fascinating! This movie certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you enjoy metaphors and allegories as the main driver of the story than you might enjoy yourself!

  4. Billy Joe says:

    Just saw this film and enjoy such symbolic artworks that are more interpretive rather than depicting a physical “reality”. Many viewers seem to prefer some fictional reality but perhaps a film like “mother!” might reflect a deeper reality. There can be lots of interpretations within this film reflecting nature, culture, society and related institutions but I like to see it largely as representing “mankinds” curse to repeatedly misunderstand and objectify “love” and the resulting damage to ourselves and others from a dark self-centered “love of self” rather than finding the higher understanding, compassionate, nurturing love that “IS LOVE”. The film portrays “man’s” careless failure to evolve and grow to a higher state of mind, remaining ignorant and unable or unwilling to choose a brighter path (to paradise?) “real love” can offer. Too often we fail to live up to the humanistic ideals we claim to hold in highest esteem. I compare this to David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive which I believe explores something similar from a different artistic perspective. Films like this can be viewed multiple times to appreciate. I will add that for me, the “confusion” is very much a part of the experience since I tend to interpret the film as suggesting “we” as humans are often confused about how to truly love both ourselves and others. Anger, war, hate, greed, violence, destruction and such are all the miserable undesirable result and perhaps a form of self-destruction both individually and collectively.OgT

    • Nick Kush says:

      I totally understand where you’re coming from, but I still feel like all those metaphors and allegories cancel each other in some instances. I really enjoy cerebral, symbolic movies. In fact, Denis Villenueve’s Enemy was a favorite of mine. Comparing that film to this film, I feel like that film’s symbolic gestures make a ton more sense when you study it. However, in mother!’s case, it felt like a bunch of ideas thrown against the wall that don’t add up to a cohesive thought. Sure there’s ideas that the film discusses, but I can’t say that it focused on any of them, leaving me with nothing to feel as I left the theater.

  5. It’s hard to talk about this movie without spoilers, lol. Anyway, why are movies so damn blurry lately? Am I slowly losing my eyesight or is this a thing now?

    • Nick Kush says:

      I think this was a deliberate choice by Aronofsky in this case. As for the purpose of it, it probably holds some pretentious, metaphorical discussion of the blurriness of the world or something else that sounds dumb lol.

  6. Yeah, when I saw the trailers for this film, I was very curious to know what the heck is this film actually about, but not curious enough to actually want to see the film. Does that make sense? After your review, I feel this is a film that I’ll probably be scratching my head about afterwards!

    I just notice how you put hyperlinks to other reviews based on key words and phrases in your reviews; that’s quite clever! I assume it’s like if a certain key phrase reminds you of another movie or is showcased well in another movie, then you hyperlink it to that review?

    • Nick Kush says:

      Yup! That’s exactly how I do it! I read through it once just to proofread and clean up any sentences then after that I hyperlink to other content.

  7. raistlin0903 says:

    Hmm…not sure what to make of this one then, but I guess I’m going to skip seeing this in the theatres and wait for the dvd release. Off topic: Saw Wind River this morning, truly a terrific film ?

    • Nick Kush says:

      I’m glad you liked it! The more I think about that one the more I really, really like it. I originally gave it an A- but I might have to revise that to an A sometime soon!

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