Review: mother!

A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence. From filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream), mother! stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer in this riveting psychological thriller about love, devotion and sacrifice.

Since his debut feature in 1998 (Pi), Darren Aronofsky has made a name for himself when it comes to telling dark and disturbing stories with little levity. Known for his striking visuals and for his compelling characters, many of Aronofsky’s films tackle the theme of obsession. Portman’s character in Black Swan is hell bent on being the best ballet dancer and will stop at nothing to achieve it. Mickey Rourke’s character in The Wrestler is down on his luck and refuses to give up the only thing he has going for him, even if that means his obsession with stepping in the ring could put his health in danger.

Similar to his prior films, mother! is drenched in metaphors as the dense idea pushes boundaries that will divide viewers upon leaving the theater. Without giving much away, Bardem’s character is an acclaimed poet who lives with his younger wife in a newly restored house out in a remote location. All is fine and dandy until unexpected visitors start showing up at their door. Soon we realize that these visitors are actually fans of Bardem’s work. Large crowds of supporters flock to the house which leaves Jennifer Lawrence’s character on pins and needles as she watches her home slowly get ripped apart, piece by piece.

Performances from Lawrence, Bardem, Harris, and Pfeiffer are all great as they individually provoke mystery and dread. Much of the film features close up shots resting on Lawrence’s face. Often the facial expressions speak louder than the dialogue because she spends much of the film reacting to the chaos which ensues in her house. Her talent has never been in doubt but last years critical flops X-Men: Apocalypse and Passengers took a toll on her as people began to question her commitment, often saying that there was too much J-Law and that moviegoers were being overexposed by her. That however isn’t the case here as Lawrence brilliantly plays the conflicted and tortured wife. Without her performance mother! doesn’t come to fruition.

Though it’s being sold to moviegoers as a straight up horror the film tackles highbrow subject matter that might be too heady for viewers to commit to. Here Aronofsky has made an experimental political piece of cinema. He’s been vocal with his environmental and political activism and here he expresses it over the course of two hours. There’s an underlying message that takes aim at the current climate of the world and how us humans are to blame for it. It works sometimes though it takes a rapid turn in its final act. The last 30 or so minutes are terrifying as one after another we witness gruesome visuals that are sure to churn stomachs. Aronofsky wants us to discuss the film and if that means throwing in excessive violence to get it through our thick skulls, he’ll do it.

Anchored by a spellbinding performance from Jennifer Lawrence and quality outings from Bardem, Harris and Pfeiffer, mother! will provoke a rollercoaster of emotions. Does it necessarily all work? Not at all. Aronofsky’s view does become too preachy as it feels like every scene needs to encounter some kind of metaphor. After awhile it feels like you’re being beat down with the same opinion over and over again and it gets aggressively tiresome. With that being said the film is able to work for the most part thanks to the cast and the striking cinematic experience throughout. Like his other work, mother! is destined to be a film that is looked at under the microscope as the years pass.

Rating: 7.5/10

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