| A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.
It’s been a while since I was so conflicted upon writing a review for a movie from which I didn’t know how I truly felt about it. I was just unable to express myself and needed some time to conclude all of my thoughts on the film. I couldn’t separate the thought of “Is Aronofsky being super pretentious with this mix of metaphors and allegorical themes” against “did he just created something completely masterful”. But thinking about my own experience and looking at its technical mastery, I finally came to a full conclusion.
As a conceptual whole, mother! is a brilliant film. Aronofsky again proves himself as one of the most innovative filmmakers in terms of his ability to gauge authenticity from his actors and audiences. He creates an incredibly tactile, visceral world which is as terrifying as it is beautiful. From a technical standpoint, mother! is an effective exercise in anxiety-inducing, paranoia-producing claustrophobia, that uses its continuously tight framing and detail-oriented sound design to completely distress the viewer–right from its opening shot.
As for its blatant, allegorical overtones, mother! gives us an intimate, contemporary retelling of the bible that boldly refuses to shy away from the destruction-inducing nature of religion, the all-too-human vanity (and indifference) of “God,” and most importantly, humanity’s disregard for our own mother earth. It’s bleak and oppressive, disturbing and visceral, elusive and endlessly enthralling. To feel immensely uncomfortable at any point in this movie is to know that it is doing its job perfectly. The film is tonally balanced and even though it’s third act is unrestrained insanity, the way it built up to that with impending suspense never makes it feel out-of-place. If anything you feel that inevitable sense of dread as you draw closer to the film’s climax.
Lawrence remains an elusive figure throughout but then so does every performance. There is a vulnerability to her presence that evokes a sense of empathy from the audience to draw them into her plight. She creates enough intrigue through her performance to make it clear that her role is part of the larger puzzle that assembles the movie as a whole. The same goes for Javier Bardem whose poet husband is clearly drawn as a character, his motivation is to create and he is weighed down by the frustration of being unable to, but never sinks too deep into melodrama that the deeper side of what he and the movie represent are obscured. It’s clear that Aronofsky and his actors were all on the same page in terms of knowing exactly what kind of movie they were making.
With “mother!” Aronofsky has placed himself at the forefront of Hollywood’s provocateurs. Many have called this film “pretentious”, but that’s simply not true. “mother!” is, at least, a carefully constructed vehicle for Aronofsky to share his metaphysical ramblings and moral conundrums. It probably has more in common with the great Bergman or Buñuel films (in fact the first movie it reminded me of was Buñuel’s 1961 film ‘Viridiana’, very recommended) than it does with anything deemed vacuous.
Aronofsky films are the kind of movies that I adore and admire, but would never willingly recommend them to someone else as they are so emotionally raw and stylistically aggressive that it takes a specific kind of viewer to not be instantly turned off. I feel that with his latest film ‘Mother!’ even those specific viewer might have trouble appreciating this. mother! isn’t just one thing and whether you see it as a critique on religious obsession, the reckless destruction of our planet, the struggle of an artist’s creative process, or the slow deterioration of modern-day marriages… you’re right. And there is undeniable artistic beauty in that. You either love it or hate it…
‘Mother!’ gets a 9.0/10
Shot on 35's Rating Sheet: 9.5 – 10.0: Excellent! 8.5 – 9.5: Fantastic, but with minor flaws 7.5 – 8.5: Great, but with issues 6.5 – 7.5: Okay, but with major issues 5.5 – 6.5: Had potential, but falls flat hard. 4.5 – 5.5: Disaster!
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