THERE are many words that can be used to describe Mother!, the latest work from Pi and Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky.
Intense is one. Surreal another. Bonkers even. Or maybe it is best to just use indescribable.
This feature, the director’s seventh, focuses on the eponymous Mother, played by Jennifer Lawrence, and the quiet life she shares with her older author husband (Javier Bardem).
One evening, the two are visited by a surgeon (Ed Harris) who befriends the eager husband and agrees to spend the night at their house. The next morning, his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) also visits and the two find themselves being treated like royalty by the husband, much to the increasing dismay of Mother.
As the film progresses, events occur that test the patience of Mother, ranging from intrusive questioning by the visiting woman to a random encounter involving the feuding sons of the older couple who arrive regarding an inheritance dispute.
If this sequence comes across as unusual, this only sets in motion a series of home-invasion narrative strands that contribute to two of the most strange, polarizing and wild hours in contemporary American cinema and very likely the most.
This is not as good as Black Swan that which remains arguably the best of the director’s generally solid career, but this does certainly come across as an entertaining, intriguing, unique comparison with its study of a female lead being driven to the brink of insanity. Given the disappointment of Noah, Aronofsky appears more comfortable and suited to this method of making smaller-budgeted films that don’t possess the budget his previous film had.
Conventional this films is not and maybe that is where the film succeeds in its ability to take us to places that will leave people running for the hills or admiring its bold but gruesome status of a film doing something original. As the film progresses, the more crazy (for use of a better word) the film gets.
What makes the plot stay intriguing is that the more the wife appears to despise all the activity that is going on, the more the husband appears to enjoy it. There is nothing one-dimensional about Bardem’s character and though the character is not necessarily a villain, it is interesting to see what benefits, if any, more come as a result of the visits that this couple endure.
There are elements of other work from other directors, and given that Repulsion appeared as an influence on Black Swan, it is interesting to see the influence of that film appear in this. The reference to walls may be another hint, though unlike the cracks of Repulsion, this time the walls make strange noises from inside, all under the disturbed eye of our heroine. It is also worth noting that the Polanski effect is apparent with the most intense scenes scenes from Rosemary’s Baby also acting as an influence.
Shades also appear with the best films of Michael Haneke, notably its element of home-invasion and the usage of keeping the setting confined to the house. In fact, if one looks at this film, one could describe Aronofsky’s direction of this as Haneke sped up tenfold.
It also has a unique use of big close-ups, which are reminiscent of the films of Jonathan Demme and Laszlo Nemes’s Son of Saul, with its constant usage of keeping the camera at such close-view of the lead character in particular. The action stays with Lawrence most of the time and maintaining the position of her face in such frequent close-up allows us to learn more from her as she becomes more frustrated, determined and at times vulnerable.
It is interesting to see someone with big star voltage as Lawrence appearing in this kind of film and this proves her point as someone who can do different types of roles with success each way. It plays to her strengths as an actor who can combine blockbusters and smaller films like this and be just as viable and solid to each role, making her one of the finest actresses of her generation.
If the film’s concluding moments suggest anything, its that it is a miracle that the film was even in this climate allowed to pass by an American studio. Without mentioning anything that would give it away, the element of genuine horror and disturbing intensity is so apparent that it makes the more chilling scenes in Black Swan look like Love Actually. It allows Aronofsky to make a good case for his reputation of delivering unconventional and unique psychological studies and justifies him to continue making more films of this genre.
There are going to be a lot of opinions of varying nature upon viewing Mother! There will be people who will admire for its uniqueness and there will be people who will hate it for what it displays. For people who like their films to be dangerous and edgy, this does come recommended, although it comes with a warning.