<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson
Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes
After reading mixed reviews – love it or hate it – for mother! my interest was piqued to watch it, because films that get talked about this way are usually unique.
And Darren Aronofsky’s mother! is certainly one of the most bizarre and disturbing films you’ll ever watch. Now you can read various things into the dark and nebulous plot or simply say it’s a load of bullshit.
Taking place in a huge house in the middle of a pretty nowhere, mother! immediately intrigues you. A husband (Javier Bardem) struggles to write his next novel while his doting wife (Jennifer Lawrence) fixes up their house, which had burnt down a while ago. From the get go you are aware of a strange relationship between the two. And of something more sinister lurking behind the walls of their homely ‘paradise’.
Then one night an old man, a doctor (Ed Harris), knocks on their door seeking shelter and is welcomed with open arms by the husband. The wife is less certain of allowing a stranger into their home. Side by side, strange sounds, sights and a pain in her chest manifest themselves. The next day, the doctor’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives to join him. It’s all done in a very creepy way. And the influx of the strange people on her territory troubles you just as much as it does her. On some level this intrusion speaks to each one of us who has nightmares about intruders into our home. And yet there’s something deeper lurking behind all the mayhem that transpires as this woman who is trying to make a home for them sees it all crumbling before her eyes.
Something evil permeates this movie but you can’t really tell where it’s going. It’s not a ghost, it’s not the devil, it’s not the paranormal, and it’s not an alien. Is it about man and woman, about husband and wife, about family, creation and destruction? This lack of direction or clarity of what’s going in is part of the allure. You’re like, “What the hell is happening?”
The close up camera work, dark tones, chaotic scenes and eerie acting make some scenes terrifying at points. Of course there’s the final act that pushes the limits but it’s not for effect. It’s brutal and distressing. You may hate it, not because it’s done badly, but because it’s done so well that it makes you feel disgusted.
I didn’t want to search too hard for hidden meaning. The film showed me things that I hadn’t seen before. It moved me, not in good ways, but it moved me nevertheless. And purely as a piece of filmmaking it shows an interesting technique that unabashedly plays to the wicked and dark mind of the creator who clearly wasn’t afraid. It’s not shock value just to shock you. Which is what makes it more effective.