Jennifer Lawrenca and Javier Bardem in Darren Aronofsky's 'Mother!'. Image credit: Paramount Pictures; Niko Tavernise.

‘Mother!’: Bold, horrific and utterly brilliant


Darren Aronofsky’s much anticipated new psychological thriller, Mother!, has certainly been met with a whirlwind of controversy. Tearing film critics and audiences alike apart, the film has attracted reviews that have simultaneously called it one of the best and worst films ever made. But is it really as insane (and brilliant) as everyone is saying?

Depicting a story of love, devotion and sacrifice, Mother! is rife with allegorical imagery that is set to have you discussing it for hours after viewing. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, simply characterised in the film as ‘Mother’, the film presents itself as a tale of domestic bliss with Lawrence’s character desperately and delicately restoring a house, which was once her husband’s family home, before a fire destroyed it. She is married to the much older character, ‘Him’, played by Javier Bardem, a poet tortured by an intense bout of writer’s block which forms cracks in the foundation of their marriage and soon, their home.

The last thirty minutes of the film will have you reeling and writhing in your seat

It is after the arrival of Ed Harris’s character, ‘Man’, and shortly afterwards, his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), that the once tranquil house turns into a site of chaos. Aronofsky’s Mother! is an assault on the senses, beginning quietly with just an underlying feeling of unease before it builds up to its crescendo of mania and horror. The last thirty minutes of the film will have you reeling and writhing in your seat, at once covering your eyes to prevent yourself from seeing the terrifying events before you, whilst simultaneously paralysed with curiosity. It’s like a car crash; you just can’t look away.

Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Mother!’. Image credit: Paramount Pictures; Viacom.

In the lead up to the film’s release, the marketing made extensive efforts to keep as much ambiguity as possible surrounding the plot. The film’s first theatrical poster saw an angelic illustration of Lawrence, the devoted wife, holding out her own heart that she had seemingly ripped from her chest, hauntingly smiling with pleading eyes. Bardem’s poster was equally enigmatic and saw him surrounded by fire.

A film about the destructiveness of human nature

Anyone hoping for more of an explanation concerning the nature of the film were hard done by when the first trailer rolled around. It was an intense succession of noises and visuals; screaming, shouting, the sound of destruction overlaid with a ghostly Lawrence as she paces around the house. It was a film that garnered an incredible amount of attention and intense debate before it had even been released. Critics, the press and audiences demanded answers, constantly speculating, the human lust for knowledge being challenged by Aronofsky who remained smugly tight-lipped.

Darren Aronofsky’s film is utterly brilliant

It’s that inherent self-righteousness that humans possess which is at the forefront of Mother!. A film about the destructiveness of human nature and our ability to harm something so kindly gifted to us in the first place. An astounding reflection on the treatment of the earth depicted almost simplistically through a domestic setting.

In my opinion, Darren Aronofsky’s film is utterly brilliant. That isn’t to say that Mother! did not have a tendency to become too obvious in its use of allegory, because it did. The use of symbolism to represent Biblical interpretations and environmental issues was undoubtable clever, however they soon became predictable and, after a while, handed the deeper readings to you on a plate. At points, it felt self-indulgent in its cleverness and insanity to the point that it became slightly cliché and try-hard; further self-indulgence stemmed from the fact that you could literally place Aronofsky in Bardem’s place to create a story about the struggles of art.

Regardless, I cannot remember the last time I came out of the cinema so affected by a film I had just seen. I was left both speechless and desperate for discussion all at once – a definite sign of a good film.

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