Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem star as a wife and her poet husband in this much talked-about experimental thriller from Darren Aronofsky.
The couple live a life of tranquility in a secluded house, set against an edenic wilderness, until a series of strangers begin appearing at their door.
While there’s not much more to be said about the narrative than that, there’s plenty to take away from Mother! – an incredible central performance, an aesthetic unlike anything we’ve seen so far this year and a compelling central message buried beneath multiple layers of cryptic symbolism and religious allegory.
Make no mistake, Mother! endeavours more than a flirtation with arthouse cinema – this is the kind of head-scratching, occasionally-baffling, often-offensive and morally reprehensible “art” filmmaking that is very rarely permitted entry to mainstream cinemas.
Punters will leave in droves cursing any and all marketing material that attempted to pass Aronofsky’s latest off as little more than an A-list led psychological thriller.
Many will rally to the internet condemning the director.
Others will wallow in silence, only to find themselves mulling and re-mulling over the film’s meaning in the days and weeks to come.
Many will have sat back and simply injured/enjoyed Mother! for all its pure, unadulterated frenzy of violence and religious ecstacy, only to happen on its meaning during a particularly concentrated bout of self-reflection in the shower a few days later.
Of course, those who paid attention in religion class will pick up on most, though unlikely all, of the films myriad layers of biblical references (if they haven’t already left the cinema with their religious sensibilities horrifically wounded).
Aronofsky weaves his film through with religious symbolism, some easily picked up on, others far more cryptic.
The aforementioned plot only really serves to link together these allegorical puzzles and draw out Aronofky’s message – consequently, to delve deeper into the film’s mysteries would be to spoil it completely.
The fun here is in enduring the madness and figuring things out – and, if you pay attention, you certainly will.
For all its layers of symbolism and allegory, Mother! gets rather didactically heavy-handed in its final act – those who pick up on the filmmaker’s intended message may get a little weary of how hard he hammers it home in the film’s closing moments.
These thirty-or-so minutes are quite unlike anything that’s appeared on the big screen this year – meticulously arranged, intensely violent, and structured with the deft hand of an experienced artist.
It’s a feast for the senses and your ears will take some time to adjust to the unremarkable normality of the outside world once the credits roll.
The sound design in Mother! is truly original: beautiful, grotesque, vacillating from deathly silence to earth quaking clamour throughout. The horrific creaks, groans and moans of the house are the perfect partner to its Escher-like architecture and uncanny geometry. If nothing else, the sound and production design teams will surely get some heavy recognition this coming awards season.
While most of the cast produce commendable performances as foils to Lawrence’s sanity, Mother! is predominantly about the actress’s central performance.
Lawrence does some serious heavy lifting here, rarely leaving the frame for the film’s two-hour run time.
Taking centre stage in the midst of Mother!’s highly claustrophobic cinematography, Lawrnece’s character is all we have to hold on to – accordingly, we become attached and root for her amongst all the chaos.
Mother! is not for everyone, and certainly not for the faint of heart. Leave your sensibilities at home, but not your sense – this is tough, but rewarding work.