Mother! (stylised as mother!) is a Darren Aronofsky film through n through. Dark, disturbing & deliriously deranged, it is a bizarre & bewildering cinema that’s meant to provoke a polarizing response from its viewers and has already sparked enough controversy with its allegorical plot & barbaric violence. Filled to the brim with biblical references, pervaded with an air of mystery & sense of foreboding, and taking things to manic levels in the final act, Aronofsky’s latest is arguably the most harrowing film of the year, and certainly the most divisive.
The story follows a couple who live a quiet life in a secluded mansion that was once burned to the ground but since has been restored to its former state by the wife who wishes to create a comfortable environment for her husband who’s an acclaimed poet struggling with writer’s block. However, their tranquil existence is disrupted when a stranger shows up on their doorstep unexpectedly, and the husband invites him to stay. Soon after, more n more uninvited guests arrive and are welcomed into the house by the husband who keeps letting them in, much to the wife’s dismay.
Written & directed by Darren Aronofsky (best known for Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler & Black Swan), Mother! is another surreal & haunting showcase from the esteemed auteur who has made a career out of crafting films that leave a scar. Ambitious & unyielding in his approach, Aronofsky doesn’t hold back on anything when bringing his vision to cinematic life, and delivers a cinema that only gets more disquieting with time. An uneasy feeling permeates its frames from the opening moments, is further amplified as plot progresses, and finally culminates on a gut-wrenching note that’s certainly not for the easily distressed.
All the director’s trademarks make their way into the final print, be it the grainy texture, muted colour palette, dreamlike segments, unadulterated violence & no shortage of allegories. The whole narrative unfolds inside the house plus its isolated setting brings the element of claustrophobia into play in a very natural fashion. Cinematography is impressive throughout, for the camera is never at rest, and follows our protagonist like a silent observer at all times. Editing is expertly handled too, keeping the palpable tension & razor-sharp intensity alive throughout its 121 minutes runtime. Soundtrack is missing but the sound design is impeccable, for those ambient noises only add to its uncomfortable aura.
Coming to the performances, Mother! packs a fabulous cast in Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris & Michelle Pfeiffer, and Aronofsky pushes all of them outside of their comfort zones. Lawrence plays the titular character with grace & humility, and delivers a compelling performance that easily ranks amongst her finest acts. Her character is pushed to the limit & beyond, especially in the last act, and the actress does well to illustrate her gruesome ordeal with emotional precision. Bardem plays the husband who lets in more chaos into their house in order to fuel his stagnant imagination & punctured ego, and contributes with an unnerving input. Harris chips in finely as the first uninvited guest while Pfeiffer steals nearly all her scenes in the role of the stranger’s intruding wife.
On an overall scale, Mother! is an aesthetically pleasing art-house endeavour that fascinates & frustrates in equal doses, and presents the controversial filmmaker in complete control of his craft. By refusing to be subtle about the allegory, and taking things a tad too far in the third act, Aronofsky’s latest takes his obsession with biblical elements to a whole new level of insanity, and is definitely the most divisive film he’s made to date. Some will label it as pretentious, some will call it a work of a visionary, what’s assured however is that there won’t be any middle ground. To summarise it all, Mother! is a phantasmagoria of horror & mystery that’s darkly demented & fiendishly funny, and is one of those films that viewers will either embrace wholeheartedly or reject outright. A must watch for Darren Aronofsky’s fans & fanatics.