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Mother! Review

"Darren Aronofsky's newest religious opus aims for shock value, but falls flat."

Mother! is the new film from Darren Aronofsky starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris.

It is really hard to talk about Mother! without talking about how it has been advertised.  Almost aggressively in the sense that there was a teaser trailer, a full-length theatrical trailer, and a major marketing campaign. But for the first time in recent memory there was a wide release starring a mainstream star (Lawrence), no clue as to what her role is in the movie, or have any idea what the plot of the film could even possibly be. All that was heard and seen in the teaser trailer was Lawrence walking towards a door with some faint screaming in the background and some intriguing yet ambiguous imagery. Even if you have watched the trailer online several hundred times, you still have no idea what to prepare yourself for when watching this in the theater.

Javier Bardem is a poet with writer’s block who is staying in a lovely country home with his young wife, played by Lawrence. While the poet struggles with writer’s block, the young wife has taken on the massive undertaking of rebuilding their home after it has been burned in the fire.  Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer are the couple’s first houseguests and managed to be rude and cause chaos in the once serene household. More houseguests follow, making the couple’s country home the focus of an oddly disordered universe.

To also give you a better idea of what this movie is going for, the characters don’t have names. They are credited at end of the film, but not a single character is introduced or called my name. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem are only credited as “mother” and “Him”. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer are credited as “man” and “woman”.

Even though Mother! was heavily advertised as more of an art house film, it is a pretty straightforward plot. The religious allegories are glaringly obvious, and the bloody violence that ensues later in the only highlights the symbolism that Aronofsky does not do a good job of making subtle references to. It is a very purposely divisive film, but I believe the audience will be divided three ways instead of two. Some will love it, some will absolutely hate it, and some will be indifferent. I fall into the latter of the three.

It’s very easy to say that the performances are great, the movie is beautifully shot, and the film’s pacing is on target. Darren Aronofsky is a very competent director, he will not make a bad movie. But the plot makes it seem as if he was trying to shock audiences and cause a divide. For example, most of the violence that endures happens directly to Lawrence. There is a particular scene where she is abused to the point of near death for a situation that she has no fault in, and the camera does not cut away, no one comes to her rescue, and she barely makes it out alive. Why is written this way, if only to directly invoke a visceral reaction from the audience.

Mother! is a competent film, but not a good one. Too many symbols, too much violence that is only there for the sake of shock value and not enough screen time for Pfeiffer and Harris, who I missed as soon as they left the house. It would have been much better if Aronofsky just made a movie about a modern version of God. It will disturb most, but Mother! left me unbothered.

 

Rating
6.1
Pros
  • Great Performances
  • Beautiful Cinematography
  • Good Pacing
Cons
  • Heavy handed religious allegory

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