Mother! stars Jennifer Lawrence as “Mother”, a devoted wife to emotionally damaged artist “Him” (Javier Bardem) who is suffering a debilitating bout of writer’s block. She single-handedly rebuilds his childhood home, which had mysteriously burnt down, in the hope that this idyll in the middle of nowhere will reignite his creative, and perhaps even sexual, passions. However, this paradise-in-the-making is disturbed as a series of unexpected random visitors pay them a visit from out of nowhere, to catastrophic results. Weird, unique, challenging: director Darren Aronofsky is back.
The acting from Lawrence, Bardem, and Michael Pfeiffer is topnotch, perhaps even Oscar-worthy. Ed Harris is pretty special in this, too. They really are on top of their game here. The set up and first third of the film is wonderful, classic almost Twilight Zone mystery territory: who are these people, what do they really want, and why is everyone — including her husband — acting so off? The film is both a pensive slow-mover and at the same time a rocket-charged rollercoaster. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.
Sadly, I don’t ever want to set my eyes on it again. The film totally goes off its rocker after an unfortunate incident occurs in the house. The imagery and the acting and set design were magnificent and brutal. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. None-the-less, any pretence of story is launched through the window (or the wall) with all the ferocity of Yuriy Sedykh’s hammer throw at the 1986 European Championships. It makes no sense, nor does it want to. Aronofsky is a challenging but brilliant filmmaker (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream, Pi), but this film just eats itself in pretension (you already noticed the “names” of our two protagonists, didn’t you? “Mother” and “Him”). Both totally open-ended and easy to interpret any way you want — as per our writer’s own work (ooooh meta) — and yet incredibly straight-forward, this movie doesn’t so much think it’s cleverer than it is, but rather it doesn’t give a flying f***. Frankly, it’s bonkers, but in a way that makes no sense (in contrast to Aronofsky’s previous works).
As I have said, this movie has genuine Oscar contender vibes. So why only two stars? Because story has to come first, that’s why; a movie that tosses story out of the window to go down some kind of nightmarish drug trip which makes no sense at all, cannot have a “good” rating no matter how undoubtedly brilliant aspects of the film are. The last section of the film began to genuinely test my patience with its out-and-out nonsense. Being a visionary director who has succeeded in getting first rate performances out of his team is not an excuse for self-wallowy rubbish.
© 2021-2022 Bryan A. J. Parry
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