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Mother! The Year’s Most Divisive Film

  • Ed HarrisJavier Bardem...
  • HorrorThriller
  • Darren Aronofsky
reviewed by
Marija Djurovic
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Mother! The Year’s Most Divisive Film

It’d be easy to dismiss Darren Aranofsky’s psychological-horror-thriller, Mother! as a total and an incomprehensible mess. However, although the inclination to do so will be undeniably strong for most mainstream viewers – especially those who are not familiar with Aranofsky’s previous work or might not be too keen on the director’s unconventional and psychologically unravelling storytelling techniques – there is still something disturbingly riveting and artistically creative to see here. 

The story introduces us to Mother (Lawrence); a young woman who lives a relatively peaceful – but seemingly sexless and passionless – life with her husband, Him (Bardem), in their remote manse cut-off from the rest of the world. She spends her days fixing and decorating their recently-burned-down-to-the-ground home, while Him, a famous poet, is suffering from writer’s block which, as a result, has put a significant strain on their relationship.

One night, out of nowhere, a strange Man (Harris) comes knocking at their door, looking for a place to stay. Mother is not too excited about the idea whilst Him gladly invites Man into their dwelling.  The very next day, Man’s wife, Woman (Pfeiffer), comes to the house, wanting to spend some time with her husband. Things get even weirder when more strangers come knocking, throwing Mother in a state of frenzy as she soon grows increasingly desperate to make things go back to the way they were.

With echoes of Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and Luis Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel – a movie which the director used as his direct inspiration – echoing throughout the proceedings, the story is relatively simple in structure. However, the execution and the storytelling methods used to tell it are most definitely not. Drenched with metaphors and hidden messages, the story doesn’t really make much sense; it all really comes down to what you make of it and the interpretations that you come up with are all yours for the taking. Impossible to predict what will happen from one minute to the next, the insanity of the script only grows as the minutes pass by with Lawrence delivering a deeply unravelling and emotionally challenging performance of a woman sinking deeper and deeper into madness. Meanwhile, Bardem is equally solid as the ego-driven poet whilst Pfeiffer is absolutely mesmerising in her turn as the Woman, commanding notice and attention every time she appears on screen.

Barely getting a chance to pause and allow the audience – and even the characters on screen – to fully process its story, Mother! can be frustrating. However, it’s never, ever boring with the director’s feverish, bold and artistic vision of a world-gone-mad, resonating as a maddening viewing experience, but an experience no less.

Obscure in more ways than one, Mother! is a daring and unapologetic piece of filmmaking from an acclaimed director who, once again, manages to challenge his viewers through a deeply disturbing and at times baffling narrative, creating a film that doesn’t necessarily play by the rules and a story that many, regardless of their personal take on the film, will be talking about long after the credits roll.

Like This? Try

Pi (1998), Requiem for a Dream (2000), Black Swan (2010), 

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Darren Aranofsky wrote the first draft of the script in just 5 days.

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