MOTHER! (USA, 18, 121 mins)
Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson.
THE PLOT: A man known only as Him (Javier Bardem) is a famed, middle-aged writer who is going through a unproductive block at the moment. His younger wife known as Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) has devoted her future to him and the country house that they live in, which she is restoring with love. They live an idyllic life there, an island of peace and quiet from the outside world. But then the outside world comes crashing in, when a nosey fan (Ed Harris) and his ice queen wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) turn up uninvited. Him becomes quite taken with them and bathes in the adulation. Mother feels uncomfortable with the presence of these strangers, given the liberties they take as they make themselves quite at home. Mother starts to go off the rails…
THE VERDICT: Brace yourself for Darren Aronofsky’s new film ‘Mother!’, it really is something else. But then again, what do you expect from the director of ‘Requiem For A Dream’ and ‘Black Swan’? Conventional storytelling doesn’t float his boat – just look at the surprise appearance of rock monsters in ‘Noah’. What it is though is a tightly wound coil that is slowly released, springing forth all manner of booby traps and mental mind games, playing with audience expectations of where the story is really heading.
Aronofsky’s script is quite daring and experimental. Even Pfeiffer described it as esoteric. It shifts gears several times. At first, it seems like a chamber piece where the characters are all moving positions in a power play over who gets to exert dominance in this house. We watch as the mostly passive Mother tries to humour her husband while maintaining some sort of order over her unruly guests. Then it shifts again when more people are introduced into the mix, leading Mother to unravel further. Aronofsky is not interested in red herrings or clichéd plots to drive someone crazy here. He’s interested in the endgame.
The bravura third act, which is best described as domestic warfare, will ultimately decide how you feel about the film overall. You’ll either want to shake Aronofsky’s hand for being so bold and daring, or punch him in the face for pushing audience limits. It deliberately strays into 1980s video nasty territory and will no doubt prompt some people to walk out. However, this reviewer likes having his buttons pushed and expectations challenged by a director. It’s a bleak, nightmarish view of human behaviour overall, in tone with the director’s previous output. People are never what they seem in this film and don’t behave according to societal norms.
There’s an undeniable power to the third act though, driven by highly committed performances, particularly a game Lawrence, and a strong visual style. ‘Noah’ must have rubbed off on Aronofsky somewhat, as he alludes to Biblical references in his visuals and storytelling. The crumbling house takes on a prison-like feel, becoming a character in itself. ‘Mother!’ is quite unlike anything else you’ll see this year. Whether you love it or hate it, you’ll be talking about it afterwards. That’s surely better than not being talked about.
RATING: 4 / 5
Review by Gareth O’Connor