This is going to be the easiest and hardest review I’ve ever had to write. I find it difficult to express what this film really is without spoiling it and I find it difficult to recommend it to people because it is one of the most intense cinema experiences I’ve ever gone through. However, I do enjoy gushing over a film I absolutely love!
Let’s start with the basics. mother! is the latest film from confrontational director Darren Aronofsky. It stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a married couple living in an old house in the middle of a field. One night a stranger, played by Ed Harris, comes over and stays the night with them. Then things start to get really weird.
A particular flaw I find in my own way of writing reviews is in my compartmentalisation of the different things that make a movie good or bad. The acting, the writing, the direction etc, and then how they come together to form a whole. This is an efficient, but I find boring way to construct criticism.
I will, therefore, be brief in my appraisal of the different pieces in this whole. The acting across the board is very good. Jennifer Lawrence was brave for taking on this role, but I won’t go so far as to say her performance is mesmerising. The stealer of the acting show is Javier Bardem as he falls deeper into what can either be interpreted as love of humanity or madness. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Aronofsky has always had a controversial streak to him. His films even at their tamest have a furious nature. The camera shakes, the characters framed a bit too close, the disgusting details not hidden. He makes sure that your reaction is fierce in whatever direction. Jared Leto’s arm was black with the effects of his character’s substance abuse at the end of Requiem for a Dream, Noah felt compelled to do God’s will even if it meant killing his grandchild. This director really tries to push your buttons.
Here he constructs a little world which may make up his vision of what it means to be an artist in love or possibly his vision of the Christian God in his acts of creation and love.
I’ve had to try to calm down after watching this film over the past few days. My brain caught fire. My hands were shaking. My throat was bone-dry. Like Roy Batty in Blade Runner “I have seen things you people wouldn’t believe”. The audacity of this movie which apparently took 5 days to write is astounding. This has to be one of the most shocking things I have ever watched.
With that said, it never feels forced. I’ve seen A Serbian Film and I was not shocked by it. That movie was an exercise in the excess of shocking material. mother! shocks with a genuine purpose.
I haven’t even talked about the incredible sound mixing, or the atmosphere of dread that builds so much before the explosion of insanity in the final act.
This movie has shaken up the sand at the bottom of my mind. It’ll take a while for it to fall back.
Recommended Scenario: If you think you can handle some truly horrific, but amazing stuff.