SERIOUSLY, I CANNOT REVIEW THIS FILM WITHOUT REVEALING MAJOR SPOILERS, BUT IF YOU’VE COME HERE TO SEE IF YOU WANT TO SEE IT OR NOT, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU DO!
Mother! is a psychological horror film written and directed by Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for A Dream, Black Swan) and starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. A poet (Bardem) suffers from writers’ block while his wife (Lawrence) spends her days fixing and redecorating their house after it was burned to the ground sometime in the past. A strange visitor (Ed Harris) comes calling and afterwards the house and the poet seem to attract an ever-growing and progressively weirder amount of guests.
The film is portrayed from the Mother’s point of view and in a dream-like state. One can interpret it in many ways, but the film is essentially about a relationship. For my money, it’s a relationship with a brilliant artist, but from a removed POV so that you can see the ugliness as well as the beauty in his work.
The sequence at the film’s climax, when fans arrive to congratulate the Poet on his now published work is probably the craziest ten minutes of film you’ll see this year and Aronofsky crafts it perfectly, so that it’s utterly compelling. Compared with the slow, tension-building pace we’ve had up to this point, the chaos is the perfect release; like a band finishing their set with their biggest hit, or a world cup final ending in penalties.
Bardem’s performance is fantastic. You get all of the pain of an artist unable to control what they create, all of the passion, all of the elements left in its wake. His deference to the fans, yet egomania towards their adoration of him that still doesn’t satisfy him should chime with anyone who creates, be it music, literature or indeed any artform.
Jennifer Lawrence also puts in a great performance – she displays a good balance of curiosity and self-awareness so that the audience can understand her. She doesn’t follow the horror trope of blundering into danger through too much curiosity, but nor is she so passive that the story can’t move forward. The writing for her character was a little flawed though, as she’s slow to react to the guests exploiting her hospitality. I found myself thinking ‘well I’d have told them to leave already if I’d seen that,’ far too often.
The camerawork is reminiscent of Children of Men, which likewise uses a lot of long takes. And as with COM, it’s a gimmick that works, as it brings the viewer into the world of these people.
There are a couple of minor sticking points for me. Firstly, I thought some big name actors were wasted in slightly pointless cameos. Ed Harris and Domnhall Gleeson do very little in their roles, which is a shame knowing how capable those actors are. On the other hand Michelle Pfeiffer excels in making her character utterly loatheable and Kristen Wiig’s cameo as the publisher is one of the rare moments of comic relief, and is actually quite charming.
The other problem I had is that the Poet reveals himself to be God. The symbolism was already there to make this connection without beaten over the head with it and besides, it’s rather a clumsy way of defining the character. The film works much better if the character is a man revered as a God, but with flaws and stuck in a karmic cycle, where one can interpret his actions how one wants. However, just because the Poet says he’s God, doesn’t necessarily mean that he is, just that he believes himself to be, but that brings me back to the first point, which makes comment unnecessary.
In summary, this is a genuinely unsettling psychological horror, with great key performances and a story that develops into delightfully depraved madness, even if it seems the writing was a little rushed.
Final Score: 8.5/10