Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Brian Gleeson, Domhnall Gleeson
Runtime: 2 hrs 1 min
Rating: NC16 (Violence & Disturbing Scenes)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 14 September 2017
Synopsis: A couple's relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence. From filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream), mother! stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer in this riveting psychological thriller about love, devotion and sacrifice.
I’ll be honest – I fucking hated ‘Mother!’, and by that I mean I absolutely loathed it. If you thought ‘Black Swan’ was pretentious, well you haven’t yet seen writer-director Darren Aronofsky’s latest self-aggrandizing piece of ‘artistic filmmaking’.
The titular character is never named, and as played by Jennifer Lawrence, is the adoring wife of an also unnamed middle-aged poet – referred to as ‘Him’ (Javier Bardem) – stuck in writer’s block. They live in a gorgeous octagonal Victorian mansion, which she is painstakingly renovating. We find out later that the house was burned down in a fire which consumed her husband’s first wife, and that he had pulled from the ashes a burnished crystal which he now displays proudly in his study.
Then out of the blue, a stranger (Ed Harris) turns up at their doorstep. He says he’s an orthopaedic surgeon who’s looking for a place to stay, and that he had mistaken their house for a bed-and-breakfast. To her horror, ‘Him’ invites the ‘man’ to stay; and by the next day, his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives, followed by their two quarrelling sons (Domhnall and Brian Gleeson). Before the day is over, one son will bludgeon and accidentally kill the other, resulting in a pool of blood on the wooden floorboards that she will scrub clean save for a patch shaped in a vagina.
It doesn’t take a genius to see the parallel with the Cain and Abel story in the Bible, or the 10 plagues that make a brief appearance one by one. Those familiar with Aronofosky will know that he has been fascinated with Christianity – from his first feature ‘Pi’ to ‘Noah’ to ‘The Fountain’, Aronofsky has consistently drawn allegories and imagery from Biblical stories. ‘Mother!’ is no different, but there is no coherence, no logic and no purpose in his references here.
The anything-goes, anyhow-told narrative has unwelcome strangers turning up at her house to mourn the death of the ‘man’s’ son, an unleashing of pent-up passion between her and ‘Him’, her unexpected pregnancy afterwards that lets her morph into the Virgin Mary, her husband’s sudden inspiration and overnight success, the arrival of cult followers that want to use her newborn son as blood sacrifice, and last but not least plenty of sectarian wars and conflict that culminate in a full cycle of destruction and reincarnation. Only those enamoured with ‘bullshit’ will think that revealing any of these unexpected twists and turns amounts to ‘spoilers’; but really, it’s a lot of shock-and-awe wrapped around a bastardisation of notable Biblical tales for absolutely nothing.
Indeed, even more absurd than the movie itself is how some have tried so strenuously to justify its nonsense. One reading has it as an allegory for the abuse of Mother Earth, a warning for climate change; another explains how it describes the process by which art is created and how the artist eventually becomes a slave to that art; another talks about how some men have treated their women in marriage, reducing them to supporting roles and robbing them of agency and respect. Neither of these interpretations disguises the fact that the movie is a haphazard mess of ideas that never amounts to anything substantial or compelling.
Why then should we put up with its misogyny? Why then should we put up with the overwrought delirium that just gets more and more sickening? Or more fundamentally, why should we even care about what’s happening onscreen? Not even Lawrence, or Bardem, or Harris, or Pfeiffer can add depth to their characters, which are so thinly written that we wonder why the actors even bothered. And therein lies the stark truth about the madness we are supposed to discern as an expression of profound ideas – there is simply nothing behind it, no meaning, no wit and certainly no redemption.
‘Mother!’ is the sad product of an artist’s self-indulgence taken to its own grotesque extremes. It is no art, it is no genius, and it is definitely no masterpiece, despite critics caught up in the same pretension will try to convince you. If you’re curious about why we hated it so much, then go see it by all means; otherwise, stay away from this motherfucking disaster.
(Utter bullshit masquerading as art, allegory or whatever excuse some deluded critics are calling it, 'Mother!' is a loathsome exercise in self-indulgence)
Review by Gabriel Chong