US | 2017 | Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Logline: The tranquil, isolated existence of a young woman and her older husband is disturbed by the arrival of a curious man, and his insistent wife.
Jennifer Lawrence plays the young woman. She has been rebuilding the once damaged huge country home of her husband, played by Javier Bardem, fixing the interior, and painting the walls, putting her love into the project whilst she waits patiently for Him to create. He is a poet, suffering writer’s block, and she is his muse, but not yet providing him with everything he desires.
Or maybe desire is the problem at heart.
And damage is the key to unlock emancipation.
An older man, played by Ed Harris, enters their lives. He is seeking something, yet he remains elusive, mysterious. Even more curious is the sudden appearance of the man’s wife, played by Michelle Pfeiffer. The couple seems fit to intrude, deeper.
Unannounced, their two sons also arrive, played by Domhnall Gleeson and Brian Gleeson, and the pretty domestic picture begins to crack.
All that was beautiful and serene now is now threatened and fragile.
From the ashes of a children’s tale comes a fully-fledged adult nightmare, spun in a matter of days, Aronofsky’s passion play of commitment, anxiety, desperation, and deliverance is unlike anything you’ve seen before. A visual tour-de-force of pure cinema narrative, shot entirely from the perspective of the unnamed central character, played by Lawrence.
It is immediate and entrancing, claustrophobic and exhilarating.
As enigmatic and obscure as David Lynch, as visceral and symbolic as David Cronenberg, as studied and precise as Stanley Kubrick, as chaotic and sensorial as Dario Argento … All of these flow, yet Mother! is ambitiously, utterly unique, a truly mesmerizing experience that demands to be seen on the big screen, more than once.
But, it is a most particular taste, which will not be to everyone’s palette. Some will find it self-indulgent, repetitive, and obtuse, and it is far from the conventional Rosemary’s Baby-esque thriller the trailer conjures. Indeed, Mother! is an altogether darker, insidious creature that lies coiled like a primordial beast in the warm shallow waters, waiting patiently to pounce on you and drag you into the colder, murkier depths.
Javier Bardem and Ed Harris are solid, but the performance from Jennifer Lawrence is stunning. Michelle Pfeiffer is superb in a small, but standout role. Kristen Wiig makes a surprising appearance, and the wonderfully etched face of Stephen McHattie also rises from the maddening, quasi-religious crowd. Longtime collaborator Matthew Libatique’s camerawork (all shot on 16mm!) is amazing, and, of particular note is Johann Johannsson’s credit as sound and music consultant – there is no conventional score.
Mother! is dream-nightmare as cinema art, and I applaud Aronofsky for his boldness. Leave all your sensibilities at the door. Prepare to be upset. He has conjured something beautiful and grotesque, one of the most immersive, at times overwhelming, portraits of dream-logic I’ve ever experienced, exploring the nature of creation, tackling xenophobia, wrestling with faith, fucking with the fabric of time and space.
Who do you trust? Submission may be the only answer.
The Damsel, the Philanderer, the Fool, the Wanderer, the Zealot, the Herald, the Thief, the Neophyte, the Soldier, the Executioner, the Foremother, on and on and on and on and on …
The artist forever trying to forge, to create.