Darren Aronofsky’s MOTHER! is a fascinating and layered examination of both creation and destruction. Complex and multifaceted, it is a film that begs to be examined and discussed. Continuing on with his frequent theme of obsession, Aronofsky builds a tale that examines the toll that the process of creation takes on the lives of those closest to the creator.
Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence’s characters (known only as Him and Mother) live together in his childhood country home. The beautiful house had been destroyed in a fire, along with the remnants of Bardem’s former life. Lawrence has set about reconstructing it to its former glory, hoping that it will inspire her poet husband to be able to write again freely and happily.
As the story opens, they find themselves being visited by a strange man (Ed Harris). He claims to be under the impression that their large house is a bed and breakfast, and had been hoping to stay the night. Bardem’s character is more than happy to invite the man to stay, while Lawrence (logically), feels the entire situation is a bit odd, and is not fully comfortable with allowing this man into their home. It gets stranger still when the man’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives the next day, set on staying as well. And it gets weirder still.
This was all shown in the trailer, and yet the trailer promises an entirely different movie than what Aronofsky created. Instead of a ROSEMARY’S BABY-style thriller, we instead have a Biblical allegory that examines God’s role in creation and the flaws in his love and devotion to the fruits of that labor. As the story progresses, numerous strange people and happenings invade the quiet and serenity of Lawrence’s peaceful life and pull Bardem further away, leaving her lost and confused by what she sees around her.
At the same time, MOTHER! also serves as an examination of how we idolize and worship artistic creators, and the destructive effect that this as on the creators’ own lives and relationships. Add in a sprinkling of gender politics and a bit of environmentalism, and you’ll find that MOTHER! has a complexity that that makes unraveling its many layers a fascinating challenge.
The film is a difficult thing to watch - short very close and claustrophobic, it has the air of a dream that you just can’t wake from. As the film goes on, that dream - which drifts from peaceful to confusing and back again - unfolds into a violent and horrific nightmare.
MOTHER! is a bold film, and one that is naturally leaving audiences divided. It is certainly not the movie that was advertised but it is refreshing to see something so divisive and challenging get such a wide release. This film won’t be for everyone, and its meaning is difficult to fully unwind. Love it or hate it, it is a unique experience that will certainly leave you talking about it after you exit the theater.