mother! (2017) – Review

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer

There are two things to expect before going into mother!. One is that you will have never seen anything like this before, and two is that you will probably never want to see anything like this again! By the end of the movie, how these expectations translate will not necessarily be a clear indication of whether you liked this movie or not.

The critical reception to mother! was pretty much an even split down the middle between those who hated it, and those who loved. What side of the fence you will sit on is unclear, but what is clear is that this is not a film to feel indifference towards. For good or ill, mother! is the kind of film which demands a reaction. 

Despite these caveats, it is wise to go into mother! knowing as little as possible as well, so keeping this spoiler free is an essential. In terms of which camp Sarah Saw a Movie sits in regarding the critical reception, it is very much in the “love it” camp, but trying to explain this is a struggle,  as the hatred of this film is just as understandable and justifiable. 

The narrative itself is enigmatic and wildly open to interpretation. The characters are all unnamed; cryptically referred to as just “Mother”, “Him”, “Man”, and “Woman”. Despite this vagueness, the characters are clearly defined and identifiable, and the actors portraying them deliver some truly memorable performances. Jennifer Lawrence as the titular “mother” is particularly excellent. The film spends the majority of the time either in close-up of her face so we see her reacting from the events as they unfold, or showing her point of view. The result is claustrophobic, stifling, and totally compelling, and Lawrence’s performance is extraordinary. This is perhaps one of the most demanding roles you could give to someone, but Lawrence takes it all in her stride. 

mother! is pretty much impossible to categorize in the traditional sense of the word, and this pretension would probably rattle some, but it is the sort of film that forces us to redefine what film genres are and can be! It is at times a home invasion horror, with heavy doses of psychological trauma thrown in, there’s liberal and unexpected bursts of black comedy, there’s body horror, and through all of this there’s more allegory than you’ll know what to do with. This is the sort of film which will have an infinite number of readings, and all of them will be correct and personal to you. There’s heavy religious connotations, a scathing look at creatives and fame, a warning about the mistreatment of nature; all of this is then thrown into a blender and then shaken up in a hellish cocktail,; it’s an ordeal, but it is undeniably a wild ride from start to finish. 

In short, you will never have seen anything like mother! before, and when it’s over, you’ll need to decide whether that was a good thing or not. The fact that films as brazen as this can be green-lit by a major studio is something that bodes well for the film industry as a whole, so regardless of opinions on the film itself, that is something which is worth celebrating. 

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