Hollywood never does anything new. Really? Try this then. If you want to see something that is different, challenging, horrifying, original, metaphorical, satirical, risque, and something that provides fertile ground for ideas and discussion, you absolutely owe it to yourself to check out this latest concoction from Darren Aronofsky, best known from his shatteringly bleak Requiem for a Dream and his provocative and semi-surreal Black Swan. mother! is his most 'out there' film to date, and as such wont be for everyone. A marmite film in the best possible way; but certainly not something to easily dismiss.
I won't attempt to describe the set up; its best to go in blind. But the focus is primarily on a young woman who lives with her older writer husband in a remote Victorian house, that she is renovating. Their tranquility however is about to be shattered... That's all you need to know at this point. Some people have already come up with theories about what it all means; and they may or may not be right. Metaphors abound, environmental, theological and social. God. The Devil. Garden of Eden. Cain and Able. Mother Earth/Gaia. Women's role in society. Women trapped in abusive/loveless relationships. Work vs family. Purgatory. Man vs nature. And repetitive cycles of destruction. Its like a sand pit of ideas that you can play with and arrange in any order you like. Is it about Him, or is it about Her? I started thinking one thing, now I think another. Pretentious or not, that's the kind of film I appreciate.
The filmmaking and storytelling are also fairly unique. It's not a pretty film by any means (quite the grain fest) and the colour palette changes as the film goes on, getting more vibrant as time goes on. The sound design is also interesting with the house having an organic feel to it, like a living organism- yet there's no score. I didn't even notice until someone pointed it out. Another thing I didn't notice until later is that no-one has a name. They are just 'hims, hers, and thems'. These aren't characters with backgrounds, but cyphers; embodiments of the multiple facets of humanity in all their sick glory. Terrific performances from Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and especially Jennifer Lawrence who, for the most part, is our window into this world and spends much of it as baffled as we are. The camera never leaves her, and all of the scenes are confined to a single, living breathing location.
Comparisons are difficult, however if you liked the allegory and strangeness of Get Out, or if you enjoyed the metaphorical aspects of The Neon Demon, then you might be among those who get a kick out of mother; this takes it to another level. Ditto if you're a fan of Aronofsky's Black Swan or Requiem for a Dream. I could go on to reference Lynch or, probably more accurately, Cronenberg (his characters have a similar coldness and detachment from reality). But such comparisons are ultimately useless as there's nothing really to directly compare mother! to. You might still hate it, but it's certainly worth finding out. At the very least, this is a bold, provocative and offbeat storytelling, coming when we need it most. That at least is surely worth celebrating.