Mother! is an intense ride that goes from bad to worse to downright awful.
Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play husband and wife in this home invasion style thriller that follows its own dark path taking the audience deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole.The cinematic trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s latest film promises that you will forever remember the time and place where you first saw Mother! And let me tell you, it will definitely leave a lasting impression that will have you thinking about the film for a long time after the credits roll. From the director of Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream Aronofsky has presented his audience with a home invasion style film like none other. With no first names given, our central characters are an anonymous husband and wife played by Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence. He is an older man who once had great success as a poet which he owes to a mysterious crystal kept in his office but is now struggling to get those creative juices flowing.She is much younger and a dab hand at interior design. Together they reside in a large country house surrounded by acres of greenery that was once burnt down leaving just an empty shell but is now well on its way to being one of those homes that could grace the pages of any home design magazine. She is eager to turn their home into a paradise in which they can enjoy each others company and she can dote on him hand and foot. The film begins with a quiet, unsettling sensibility as the camera follows Lawrence closely from behind as she searches the house for her husband. With the wooden floor boards creaking beneath her feet the house has an eerie feeling to it as she glides through the corridors and hallways.
An unexpected knock at the door presents our couple with a Man (Ed Harris) believing the house is a B&B and in search of somewhere to stay. Not wanting to turn him out into the night, Bardem invites their new guest in, extending the invitation for him to spend the night despite his wife showing signs of reluctance. It’s not long before the Man’s wife turns up at the door, played brilliantly by Michelle Pfeiffer, who’s cold eyes seem to pierce right through Lawrence’s character who by this point is wondering who these strange people are in her beautifully kept house and why her husband keeps inviting them in.
It’s with Pfeiffer’s arrival that the uncomfortable feeling that began as a slight itch that's just out of reach gets amped up tenfold. Boundaries are being overstepped and Lawrence is forced to watch on from the background picking up after her unwanted guests without any support or comfort from her husband. Things go from bad to worse for Lawrence’s character and what started off as two unwanted guests soon turns into a full-on nightmare and a complete loss of control. As claustrophobia and paranoia set in no one seems to see or care just how much Lawrence is suffering, least of all her husband who is busy basking in the adoration and glory he receives as both host and poet.
Aronofsky’s Mother! gradually builds up the tension and steadily increases the levels of discomfort from the very start. As an audience we are aligned with Lawrence’s character from the get-go as almost everything is shown from her point of view; everything she feels, we feel. The use of long takes using handheld cameras invites the audience into the private space of the married couple but refuses to let you leave as things start to become unpleasant and incredibly awkward. Lawrence is excellent in this role, her doe-like eyes watch everything unfold in front of her to the point of utter destruction and chaos. Bardem is the perfect pairing and contrast with Lawrence, his dark features and broad shoulders to her young swan like innocence, they are the complete opposite to each other and the film plays on this
It requires a certain amount of perseverance but it’s worth it
Mother! straddles a fine line between the realms of fantasy and reality for the first two thirds but by the final act, as all hell breaks loose, those lines are well and truly blurred. It’s probably about at this point some members of the audience will have had enough. The first half, in my opinion, is much stronger than the second. The atmosphere that has been so cleverly constructed almost dissipates into absolute madness. There are a few scenes that might have some gasping but for the most part the terror comes from what’s not being shown on screen. There are several different readings that can be taken from the film and each one is as applicable as the other, some biblical or mythological and some as commentaries on the state of the world in which we live. Whatever you take away from it there’s no denying that Aronofsky as created something unique and disturbing, something that hasn’t been seen, or felt for that matter, in a long time and that is something to be praised.
I’ve no doubt that Mother! is going to divide audiences. For me it was enjoyable in the same way going to the dentist is enjoyable: apprehensive at first but relieved after. I felt uncomfortable for most of the film which was followed by slight confusion at the end which means that I should probably watch it again, if I can bring myself to it. Ultimately it is a simple story but it’s ability to create such an atmosphere and have such a strong reaction deserves credit. Mother! is an intense ride and not one for the light hearted but it will definitely make for good conversation fodder for a long while afterwards.
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