One need only to look at film reviews for “Mother!” to realise that the film has been polarizing to say the least. On the one hand it’s been lauded: ”no gob left unsmacked in Jennifer Lawrence’s anxiety dream of horror and dismay.” (Peter Bradshaw, Guardian) and on the other hand it’s been called “the worst movie of the year, maybe century” (Rex Reed, Observer). I can’t pretend to be an expert film reviewer, but when I came out the cinema I couldn’t decide whether I loved the film, or whether I hated it. I’m happy that I’d read a few film reviews before watching it at the cinema, as I wouldn’t have understood what the hell was going on.
The story centres on two nameless characters, played by Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence. Jennifer Lawrence plays the role of childless doting wife, who is doing her upmost to rebuild her husband’s home after it was destroyed in a fire whilst Bardem plays the role of her husband, a famous writer who is in the midst of severe writing block. To start with, it was hard for me to believe that Jennifer Lawrence could play such a self-effacing character. Indeed, we find out that Lawrence has practically rebuilt the whole house with her bare hands, and that she has let her husband stand idly by doing nothing. Wifey must not disturb poor genius husband, just in case inspiration should suddenly come his way.
She wants to create a “paradise” and he calls her his “goddess”. Here is the first of many clues what the house is actually meant to represent. If you did not go to Sunday school, like I didn’t, you will forgive me for giving you spoilers. Once you realise what the film is about the clues will hit you with the subtlety of a trout smacking you in the face (although these should not deter you from watching the film). Indeed Mother! is not a horror film but in fact a religious allegory, and “most of the fun of “Mother!”(…) has to do with the elaboration and execution of a central idea” (A.0. Scott).
One day, a local orthopedic surgeon played by Ed Harris turns up at the door under the pretence of looking for a room to stay in. Bardem (without asking for his wife’s approval of course) offers to let the strange man stay. That night, Ms. Lawrence is perturbed when she witnesses the orthopedic surgeon hunched over a toilet vomiting up blood and clutching his rib. Ding Dong! Three guesses who this character is meant to represent! The next day his wife, played by the formidable Michelle Pfeiffer turns up at the door. I could not decide whether this character’s flagrant disregard for Ms. Lawrence and her “paradise” was funny, or whether I was meant to feel sorry for the latter. All I know is that I felt uncomfortable. Soon enough, the couple’s two sons turn up, and disaster strikes. At first hand we are led to believe that this was a “happy incident” as the husband finally gets the inspiration he needed to write; and Ms Lawrence finally manages to accomplish her wish of becoming pregnant. We the spectators finally think that the ordeal is over: we will be able to breathe again, go home and get on with our lives. However, the madness is just beginning. People start to descend upon the house and invade it, pillaging and destroying it, all the while multiplying at an alarming rate.
I won’t tell you how the story ends but what I can tell you is that I felt a confusing mix of emotions when I left the cinema: revulsion, confusion but also admiration. Whatever your opinions about the film, it’s undeniable that Darren Aronofsky is a very talented director.