mother! is the latest Darren Aronofsky film, made with his former partner Jennifer Lawrence. It starts out almost like a John Cassavetes movie, setting up a relationship between Lawrence’s character, the wife of a famous poet, played by Javier Bardem. Then a pair of strangers played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeffer show up, with Harris saying he is dying and wants to meet the poet who has meant so much to him. In the meantime Lawrence finds out she is pregnant, and there is an atmosphere of uneasiness marked by visions and strange foreshadowing of what will come.
The two strangers are soon followed by others, starting with their sons. Bardem has already been far too welcoming to his house guests but soon more and more arrive much to Lawrence’s dismal Chaos builds until it descends into this surreal and nightmarish party which is part rave, part booking signing and then a SWAT team and military personnel break in and all hell breaks loose.
Made by a truly masterful filmmaker, there are echoes of Bunuel’s Exterminating Angel, Polansky’s Rosemary’s Baby, and even Gilliam’s Brazil. Every filmmaker has influences, but Aronofsky really is a visionary and has definitely succeeded in bringing a hugely original idea to the screen. He goes to such extremes with his visuals that it’s worth watching. Aronofsky is one of the few singular, creative filmmakers around who still manages to get his films funded somehow—and I’d much rather see him make a film every year than 99 percent of the other filmmakers in the world. Even his lesser films, like Noah, are unlike anything someone else would make from the same material.
mother! is an addition to a truly extraordinary body of work. It’s open to interpretation but seems to be about mankind destroying the earth, although there is also a comment on celebrity culture and the Biblical and mythological references that are familiar from his other films. Some viewers and critics have been confused by the film, but I found the references pretty clear. I have argued with plenty of people about the film and very few can come up with any decent points, they just find the film so unsettling they take a dislike to it which just proves that the film works.
The performances are great – Lawrence in particular shines, which isn’t surprising as it was written for her. I would say it‘s Bardem’s best film since his role as the unremorseful killer Anton in No Country for Old Men. Harris is one of those actors who’s always good, even in a bad film. I hadn’t seem Pfieffer in anything for awhile, and she also delivers. Brian and Domhall Gleeson play the sons, and Kristin Wiig is terrifying in her role as Bardem’s agent.
The score is by Jóhann Jóhannsson , who is best known for his work with Denis Villeneuve. He was the original choice for Blade Runner 2049 but for various reasons was replaced. He has created a score with a Lynchian approach that incorporates noises and sound effects with music, with a very effective result.
The disc includes a half-hour making-of documentary and a seven-minute featurette on the excellent makeup effects. It’s too far out and disturbing to be in line for any Oscars or other awards even though if there was any justice Aronofsky would at least get a best director nomination. The first time I saw the film I felt compelled to clap when the credits rolled because I was in awe of the film just like Under The Skin a few years early.