mother! [2017]

Directed and Written by: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson


The filmography of Darren Aronofsky surely must be one of the most eclectic, varied and decidedly non-establishment collections of any prominent ‘big name’ American director working today, especially given the caliber of actors he has worked with. Even his last turn Noah, perhaps his weakest effort, still managed to defy expectations, resulting in a biblical film quite like no other, whereas The Wrestler hinted at perhaps a stylistic change– that is, until we saw Black Swan. Here, he returns to what he does best– much like Black Swan– mind-bending-storytelling.

The opening premise is deceptively simple: a couple (Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence, who aren’t given names, adding a strange disconnect between the film and audience) are living alone in a large, isolated house. The wife is rebuilding what is her partner’s house after it burnt down, and she is doing it alone; the first of many suggestions that their relationship isn’t all roses. While she repairs the house and repaints, he sits in his study writing poetry.

That is, until a ‘Man’ (an incredibly off-beat, eccentric and convincing Ed Harris – sorry Sati, this won’t be an opportunity to perve!) stops by unannounced, suggesting that he was in the area and wanted to meet the great poet. Appealing to the artist’s ego, the ‘Man’ is more than eager to not only let this stranger in, but is also willing to let him stay the night.

Oh, and his family is more than welcome too.

We start off slow, but the tense and unsettling atmosphere lingers in the background and gradually, and more importantly, consistently, grows to the point of delirium. Much like Requiem For A Dream, Aronofsky displays his skill in delivering a truly hectic climax that is almost overwhelming, and certainly will be for some viewers.

This is going to be a somewhat polarising film; the best ones always are.

The film also feels like a stage play, as all the action is confined to the house the couple share, and within that house only five or so rooms are utilised. This effectively creates an extremely claustrophobic atmosphere, and this feeling is amplified with the near-perfect pace as the film shifts through the gears.

We also experience much of this film via the mother; many scenes involve close-ups of Lawrence, while there are some scenes that are shot from her POV. This effectively puts us firmly in her shoes, and subsequently smack in the middle of the story. 

There are many themes to unpack here if one is so inclined, including but not limited to marriage equality and psychological trauma, the dismissal of a younger partner by outside observers, not to mention various biblical/messiah references. There is also the oddity of a poet being as famous as he is in the 21st century– an interesting choice to provide a basis for an ego that perhaps isn’t where it should be.

However, possible themes aren’t the focus here. This is an experience. It must be adsorbed with full immersion to achieve its desired effect.

Lawrence delivers perhaps her best performance– at least since her turn in American Hustle– and Bardem effortlessly portrays the slightly odd poet. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfieffer are also excellent in playing the intrusive and passive-aggressively judgemental intruders.

Perhaps borrowing a little too much from Polanski’s Apartment trilogy, Rosemary’s Baby in particular (though we knew this already), mother! still manages to stand out from the pack due to its variety of themes and Aronofsky’s unique approach to film; not to mention his apparent disdain for conventional output. This is also his first film without an original score; the almost complete lack of a soundtrack helps ratchet up the atmosphere further as we wonder what lies around the corner.

With a sedate but tense first act, mother! gradually and expertly raises the stakes and subsequently the action, as the couples’ sanctuary is befouled in more ways than one.

One could confidently say that the second part of the film serves as one of the best examples of a truly horrid nightmare on film, as the invasion of the mother’s privacy is shattered constantly and unnervingly. She cannot make sense of any of it, while her partner seems oblivious.


Many answers are left open to interpretation, and this is how it should be. Kudos to Aronofsky for making a picture like this, surely not an easy feat in the world of Hollywood blockbusters. That at least three big names are attached to such a dark project is commendable. While not entirely unique, mother! is certainly worth more than one viewing, and needless to say, this is simply essential viewing for fans of Polanski’s early classics, as well as those who enjoy Aronofksy’s darker work– especially Black Swan.

A full sixer, without question. The best movie of the year?

6/6

34 Comments on “mother! [2017]

  1. Yes, someone else likes mother!

    Glad to see you really enjoyed this; I did too but I’ve found very few people who really appreciate the movie. Admittedly I found the biblical metaphors to be very obvious (Aronofsky isn’t the world’s most subtle director), but the visuals and acting are superb.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yes, the references were certainly not subtle, I’m with you on that. But that didn’t bother me at all, and the rest serves as one of the best psych-thrillers since the babadook. I can;’t stop thinking about this movie.

      Darren may be inconsistent at times, but when nails it, fuck me it is just something else eh?

      Like requiem, the climax here is just unrivaled. Darren can end movies with an intensity that few others can match

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great, great GREAT stuff dude! Man, Aronofsky rocked me with this one. You make a lot of really good points here, but this is my favorite: “However, possible themes aren’t the focus here. This is an experience. It must be adsorbed with full immersion to achieve its desired effect.”

    Right on. There’s so much stuff being thrown at the audience, especially down that last 45 minute stretch, the cinematic gauntlet of the year as I’ve heard it described, it’s almost like you’re not expected to make sense of it. Just try to absorb what’s being thrown at you.

    mother! is a modern Picasso that demands an audience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hell yeah mate!!! Totally agree. ” the cinematic gauntlet of the year” – ha, indeed!! What I love are the super negative reviews coming out. Like, WTF did they watch??!

      This is my fave Aronofsky flick so far and there is good competition. Its just so…. BONKERS!

      Liked by 1 person

      • No worries man. It’s a good review. I totally agree with it.

        I think what’s interesting is how the same movie has spawned such dramatically different responses. Some just can’t process what this movie does to them, and I can sympathize to an extent with some of the harsher points of view, but still. Yeah, I think some of the comments about it being “the worst movie ever made” are a bit OTT.

        Liked by 1 person

      • yeah some of the negative reviews kinda make me smile. I just kinda think… well, your loss!! It is an intense ride though, that chaotic nature of it is part of why I loved it.

        This will probably be my fave of the year, depending on what The Sacred Killing of a Deer is like, and like last year my fave will be a polarising film. Last year it was The Neon Demon.

        Flicks that divide like this are the best man, just imagine what people first thought of 2001 and Clockwork Orange!

        Liked by 1 person

    • I remember your comments on Requiem For A Dream when I wrote about it. Almost like a horror movie. This is kinda similar, obviously not in the traditional sense of a ‘horror’ movie, but seriously it plays out like the most awful nightmare imaginable. The climax rivals that of Requiem.

      Hope you get to see it in a cinema!!

      Like

  3. This has received such a divisive response, but that’s partly why I’m so interested in seeing it. Your convincing and exceptional review has really made it go near the top of my list.

    Like

  4. Nice one! A full sixer? There’s so many days freeing opinions on this but I’ll have to see for myself. Catch wait to catch up with it.

    Like

    • A full sixer for sure. I love Aronofsky’s early stuff, Pi and Requiem mainly, Black Swan for me was a return to form. This really mirrors the final act of Requiem a lot – and I reckon why many don’t like this one – is the sheer chaotic nature the film builds up. Intense doesn’t begin to cover it. And I think I wrote also that the pace is perfect – the chaos slowly builds.

      If you like particularly the climax of the Requiem – those last ten-fifteen minutes especially – then this is REQUIRED viewing!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great write-up Jordan and thanks for the tweet to your review. Many English-language films recently tend to be too safe and lacking in innovation, so it’s nice to see some risk-taking by a major Hollywood studio. I agree Mother! is one of the best of 2017. The story managed to surprise even someone like me who has seen 100s of films! I think it took most viewers out of their comfort zone. Another divisive one this year that shocked me was Raw directed by Julia Ducournau.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have just come across your blog and having seen Mother recently, I found it visually moving when one broadens their horizon. The biblical refrences in such a powerful story seems to work i felt and that idea of the religious cult in such an evading way really gets under your skin. Another movie like this, which I really enjoyed is The Witch (2015) directed by Robert Eggers. This was a lovely review of a very compelling movie.

    Sincerely Sonea

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I agree with everything you said! I actually saw and reviewed The Witch before it was released, I saw it at a festival on a GIANT screen. Amazing experience.

      Like

  7. Great post 🙂 Glad to see someone else out there, who loves this film as much as I do. Years or decades from now, people will come back to this film and view it as a misunderstood masterpiece. As of today, I view this as Darren Aronofsky’s number one greatest film with The Fountain, The Wrestler and Noah standing beside it. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Like

    • For me nothing will beat Pi. That was amazing. And as a former addict Requiem hits me so hard. But I like all of his films really, even if he is a bit of a dick. mother! really was great, also nice to see someone else enjoying it as much as me. Its one hell of an experience.

      Liked by 1 person

      • “But I like all of his films really, even if he is a bit of a dick.”

        Really because he does not really come off that way to me, but then again, maybe their is something you know that I don’t. Once again, keep up the great work as always 🙂

        Like

      • Oh I just read about how he was trying essentially tell people how to interpret mother! I guess its a leap to insult the guy but that is a pretty arrogant thing to do IMO

        Liked by 1 person

  8. “Oh I just read about how he was trying essentially tell people how to interpret mother! I guess its a leap to insult the guy but that is a pretty arrogant thing to do IMO”

    I see your point. I think he really should just tell everybody that it is open to any kind of interpretation 🙂

    Like

    • indeed. I just ignored his idiocy and enjoyed the experience. And that is what it is, it doesn’t make sense but it is an assault on the senses. It makes the last act of Rosemary’s Baby seem tame!!

      Liked by 1 person

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