Mother! is a tough film for me to review. The critic (and I still use that word loosely) in me sees this film and thinks “Wow. That was another spectacular Darren Aronofsky film. I wonder what it meant? I need to sit here and do nothing but think about this film for the foreseeable future.” While the casual moviegoer in me keeps it simple, saying “What the f*** did I just watch?” So, which voice do I listen to? Let’s go on that journey together.
I love how this film is shot. Yes, we’re leading with cinematography here. The entire film is shot from Jennifer Lawrence’s perspective, which leads to a discombobulating experience when the film kicks it up to eleven, but it’s a unique and interesting way to shoot a film. It’s as if Aronofsky saw Hardcore Henry and said, “I see what you’re doing, now let me just make it, well, infinitely better.” In addition to shooting this film from Lawrence’s POV, most of the film is shot with headshots and over the shoulders (a la Les Mis, but also better).
The entire film is also shot inside a single location. That means the film needed to nail the set design, and nail it they did. Thanks to some great sound as well, the house almost feels like a character in and of itself. All of this conveys a powerfully claustrophobic feel—at least early on. The tension is there, particularly in the first and second acts, and until the third act I was on the edge of my seat loving every second of this film. Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer and Domhnall Gleeson are all fantastic. But then Mother! got weird.
This is not my first rodeo with a Darren Aronofsky film. His films are out there. But Mother! is out there even for him. Aronofsky abandons all semblance of sanity and, unfortunately, loses me in the process. He abandons claustrophobia for over-the-top, borderline unnecessary shock value. People say this ending is beautiful because of its ambiguity. It’s up to the viewer to decipher it, and there are already a lot of opinions out there about the statement Aronofsky is trying to make. Because of this I think Mother! is destined for cult status.
I don’t mind having to figure things out in a movie, but there’s a limit for me and we found said limit here.
However, if you’re the kind of person who’s fed up with the constant barrage of Hollywood sequels and reboots and are looking for something unique, creative and new that a big studio actually put some money behind, Mother! is for you. I would strongly advise watching some of Aronofsky’s previous work before jumping into this one, and make sure you’ve seen The Fountain before you watch this film, because Mother! definitely operates on Fountain rules.
Finally, I think there’s a chance this film gets a few shout-outs from the Academy when January rolls around. There’s potential here for Hollywood’s favorite poster child, Jennifer Lawrence, to receive another Oscar nomination for acting. Also look for potential nominations in set design and cinematography.