Though this film came out in September of 2017, I just got around to watching in on Amazon Prime Video. I remember the reviews were mixed at best with most unable to pinpoint the exact nature of the movie. This controversy, along with the fact that Darren Aronofsky wrote and directed it, made it required viewing in my mind.
I knew things were going to get interesting as soon as the title appeared on screen with the exclamation point appearing a few beats after the word “Mother” with an emphatic sound effect. The punctuation seemed almost comedic in delivery, which gave me the sense that things were going to get a little crazy.
I was wrong.
Things got a lot crazy.
The premise is that a young unnamed woman, played by Jennifer Lawrence, lives in a huge house in the middle of the countryside with her older, also unnamed, husband. Played by Javier Bordem, he is a writer suffering block. As he struggles to create, she busies herself with repairing the house bit by bit due to a horrendous, and mysterious, calamity that occurred at some previous point.
A stranger soon appears at their door, played by Ed Harris. He brings general chaos with him as a bad house guest after Bordem’s character, the husband (none of these characters are given actual names), invites him to stay. Michelle Pfeiffer plays Harris’ wife, and she’s the next to show up. She too brings bedlam.
Lawrence says very little in this film, but her facial expressions tell the viewer everything they need to know. She is a doting wife trying to appease her husband at every opportunity, yet it’s obvious she is irritated to no end with the rude interlopers. As are we.
As the movie continues, more and more strangers appear with the husband inviting each and every one of them in. The wife cannot understand why he’s inviting insanity into their lives as she constantly strives for self-control.
The film next shifts into a higher gear as it somehow grows even more surreal. It really captures the helplessness of a nightmare — it felt very much like some bad dreams that I’ve had. Lawrence’s character can only accept impossible events as normal occurrences even though her eyes endlessly scream, “This cannot be happening!” As we watch, we are saying the exact same thing to ourselves.
There are many theories as to what this film is about. I personally feel that it is about the creator’s need to constantly destroy those things created. Or maybe it’s about purgatory, and Lawrence’s character is trying to atone for mistakes made in life. Or maybe Bardem’s character is the devil, intent upon making people suffer in their own personal Hell, one person at a time. Or maybe it’s about the fact that no matter how much control we think we have, no matter how hard we fight to build the perfect life, the discord of the world outside will always disrupt our harmonious existence.
Or maybe it’s about none of that.
Who knows for sure?
I will say this, though — the sound effects in this movie are amazing. I watched it on my Kindle with earbuds which enabled me to enjoy every anxious breath, every creaking floorboard, and every conversation from the next room. I’ve never felt such impact by sound in a movie.
The camera movement also impressed me. I love the way the camera follows characters around the house, up and down the stairs, through shortcuts from room to room. It’s very fluid, yet also sometimes dizzying.
Finally, Lawrence absolutely portrays a sympathetic character trying so hard to deal with the pandemonium surrounding her. Bardem plays a likable husband who infuriates us nonetheless. Harris and Pfeiffer manage to irritate us from the moment they walk on screen until the moment they walk off. There’s also several surprise appearances that I won’t spoil for you.
I don’t really know if I actually liked Mother!, to be honest. It certainly captivated me. It absolutely demanded my active engagement. However, I’m not sure I would recommend it to the casual movie goer. It’s definitely aimed at those with a lot of patience and a high threshold for ambiguity. It’s a strange movie.
If you give it a watch, or if you’ve already seen it, let me know your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.
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