This last weekend there was a lot of talk around the internet about Writer/Directer Darren Aronofsky’s latest film, “Mother!” So I thought I’d go ahead and give the film a shot, under the assumption that at the very least I’d have a good conversation piece. Well, “Mother!” starring Jennifer Lawrence as Mother and Javier Bardem as Him, or “the Poet” is certainly something to talk about. First, I’d take note that for this review, spoilers are sort of a necessity. The film is probably the most allegorical, methaphoric, and symbolic film to hit the silver screen in decades. Nothing that happens is purely what you witness taking place. Every character and every scene is translatable to Aronofsky’s message-which you will undoubtedly get by the time the credits roll. This is an incredibly divisive film, some will love the ideas in play, and others will consistently roll their eyes at what some might call pretentious filmmaking.
Personally, I mildly enjoyed the film. The performances by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem are expertly acted, and the cinematography is fluid and jarring when needed. However, it was the sound design that gripped my attention the fiercest. Whoever took on that aspect of the process deserves accolades, it was crisp, taught, and appropriately overwhelming at times. Which brings me to my reaction to this film as a whole; this film reminded me most of another film by Aronofsky, “Requiem for a dream”. Both films are works that inspire on the filmmaking side of viewing, Requiem’s editing is a thing of beauty and you really should watch it just for that aspect, but I also have no urge to re-watch either of these films. They are not bad films, but both harbor subject matters that are fairly depressing and morbid.
“Mother!” seems to be a film most concerned with how humanity, in tandem with God, eventually destroys the earth by their very nature. In the film Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem live together in a large octagonal country house in the middle of nowhere, with no discernible paths or roads leading there. Mother claims she is helping the poet rebuild his house, it had been destroyed in a fire when he was young. She is his young wife, and he is a famous writer whose words have abandoned him. She tends to the health of the house and the many ongoing projects that she has put time into, and he stays up in his study staring at blank pages. Suddenly a knock comes at the door, and a Doctor, who had been told their house was a bed and breakfast, arrives at their doorstep. The Doctor (Ed Harris) eventually admits that he is a fan of the poet’s older work and the poet allows the doctor to stay- they talk, drink, and smoke late into the night. The next day the doctor’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives without an advance notice and is also greeted by the poet and allowed to stay indefinitely-much to the chagrin of his young wife. The Doctor’s wife quickly takes a judgmental eye to the Mother, asking why they have no children and if she is doing her part in the bedroom while guzzling down heavily spiked lemonade. Not long after this the Doctor and his Wife are found sneaking into the one room they were not allowed to enter, the Poet’s study. They break a treasured crystal and the Poet loudly banishes them from this room. From here the biblical allegories only continue to mount. The Doctor’s sons arrive arguing about their inheritance, one kills the other out of jealousy and then the house is filled with a wake of family and friends before the tension mounts for Mother as the guests frequently go against her simple requests and carry on rudely breaking things until a pipe bursts and the Poet finally sends them away as it rains outside. I’ll leave the rest of the film as something to be discovered, but it only escalates from there.
The meaning of this film could be interpreted in many different ways. The biblical scenes seem to hint at this overarching theme of Mother Earth being betrayed by God as he is too absorbed by the attention of humans to take notice of how his, and our, actions are negatively affecting Mother Earth. Though the film does seem to say things about celebrity and fandoms, the creative process and writer’s block, and the nature of creators in general. It’s a bit of a fascinating film, but this is also something that likely only got a wide release because of the director’s clout and the big-name actors attached, otherwise this is very much a film fest circuit story. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it most definitely will not be loved by all.
Final Score: a Poet and a Mother(!)