MPAA: Rated R for strong disturbing violent content, some sexuality, nudity and language
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer
Synopsis: A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.
Darren Aranofsky has said that he wrote this film, in just 5 days, in a very dark time in his life. All the feelings and thoughts he had about his life and society just poured out of him and he somehow created a film out of it. After digesting this film, that is the one thing that is guaranteed to come out of someone. Many thoughts and feelings, good or bad, and for most people, it will give you different outlooks on life and the world we live in today. Aranofsky’s mother! is the definition of an audacious film. A film that is very bold, risky, and very polarizing. This film will not please everyone. Some people might think it’s too pretentious, or may not understand it, or maybe even be too disturbed by it. However, there are already people labeling it as a masterpiece and one of the best films of the year.
When audacious films like these come around, and they break conventions and are very ambiguous in their themes and symbolism, it’s really a matter of “does the film deserve your attention.” The way I see it, if I can tell that a director and his crew really put the time and effort into crafting a film like this, if it is really well-made, then I will put the time and effort myself into forming my own theories about what the film is about. I believe that this film, which is like nothing ever before seen in cinema, is very well-made. The cinematography, editing, and directing are all fantastic. The camera cuts at a rapid pace, never allowing the film or us to breath, and constantly switching from close-ups, over the shoulder shots, and point of view shots of Jennifer Lawrence. The unique use of sound design is very well done, and will give it that memorable theater experience. Simply, this deserves to be pondered about long after the credits roll. This film can be talked about for months, even years after its release. It is that rich in symbols and themes. So, how were the performances?
The film lives and breathes with Lawrence’s character, simply named Mother. She plays a woman who is in a relationship with a famous writer played by the always great, Javier Bardem. His character is simply named Him. The supporting cast is also very interesting with veteran actors like Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer who both have interesting roles. It’s great to see Pfeiffer back and doing great things again. Seriously, where has she been the past few years? It’s expected to see great performances from Pfeiffer, Bardem, and Harris, and we certainly do, but Lawrence’s performance was the one I was most intrigued about. As I mentioned before, Aranofsky purposely shows the entire film from her point of view. Lawrence is constantly reacting to everything the supporting characters are doing. Sometimes she is happy, other times she is angry, there are times when she is mortified, and even petrified. There is a broad range of emotions from her character and Lawrence does a marvelous job portraying the complex character. This is also the rare performance I’ve seen from her as an actor, where I didn’t even see Lawrence. I saw someone else entirely. Which is very impressive, because she doesn’t look any different from how she looks in real life. It’s the way she moves and the way she talks that makes her an entirely different person. This just might be her best performance of her career to date. Definitely the most challenging one.
Probably the biggest strength of Araonfsky as a director is how he is able to get emotions and feelings out of his audience visually. The way Lawrence feels at particular times in the movie whether she is happy, sad, angry, or terrified is brilliantly mimicked by the way Aranofsky moves the camera, scenes are lit, and the different color palettes. The more the film moves a long, it gets a lot more dark, and in return, the colors of the film get more dark and red. The camera continues to get closer and closer to Lawrence, giving us a claustrophobic feel, and even the sounds get louder and louder. It’s also important to not that the entire film takes place in just the singular house where Lawrence and Bardem live, but that doesn’t disrupt the way the film moves, and it still manages to get more intense even in the limited location. The great thing about movies are how they can transport us into a setting with characters, and how they can make us feel emotionally. At the end of the day, film is an art form, and mother! is certainly a work of art.
Now, I’ve mentioned the strengths of the film which I believe are how it looks visually, how it sounds, the performances, and how rich it is in themes, but where the film certainly lacks is in characters and plot. It’s hard to criticize a film on plot, when it really doesn’t have one. The film is more symbolic than anything, but with this being the case, the characters are very ambiguous and hard to get a full grasp on. We don’t really get a clear understanding of who they are and what their motivations are. They are pretty one-dimensional, especially the supporting cast, and it can be difficult to emotionally latch on to the characters if we don’t understand them very well. The characters mainly represent specific things symbolically and are not fully formed characters with specific backstories. Also, a lot of the supporting cast’s sole purpose is to just be there to give reactions to Lawrence’s character. They don’t really serve any other purpose and are pretty forgettable other wise. It’s hard to get into any other flaws without spoiling the film, but lastly I will say that mother! jumbles too many things at once. There is so much going on, that it probably would have worked better, and moved better, if a few plot points here and there were taken away. It certainly isn’t perfect, but it is very unique and original which I respect.
Overall, if you are a fan of the art form and techniques of filmmaking than I definitely recommend watching this film. Also if you like to really dive deep into a film and analyze its themes and messages, than there are very few films, especially in this day and age, that do this better than mother!. It is a very deep film in themes and meanings. Many people can interpret this in their own ways which is very impressive for a filmmaker to pull off. There are theories that the film comments on current environmental issues, biblical messages, and even is about fame and the obsession of creating art. It speaks about a lot of things, that may make if feel convoluted, but is certainly an interesting film to dive into. General audience members who are looking for a great story with relatable characters, or people who are looking to turn off their brain and just have a good time at the movies, this film is certainly not for you. It’s more like an abstract piece of art, that you have to stare at for a very long time until you get some meanings and something sticks with you. I’ve only seen this once, and I’m desperate to see it again to see if I can find new and interesting things that I may have missed the first time. Even though I was a little disappointed in the overall plot and characters, I still got a lot of great things out of it and can’t stop thinking about it. My grade for this film is: