I’d be lying if I said I had any idea of the complete subtext surrounding Mother! during my first viewing. The film is on the surface a simplistic idea, at least for its first Act, but by the time the second half comes into play it quickly turns into a chaotic and messy affair. If we’re being completely honest, I had to Google to check if my assumptions about the overarching narrative were correct, and whilst I was close in that I knew about the film’s general theme, what director Darren Aronofsky was apparently trying to convey to viewers was something utterly different to what I had come up with.
Without giving away too much, seeing Jennifer Lawrence in the role of a doting housewife doesn’t feel right when the majority of what you’ve seen her in is the Hunger Games movie series, but that’s exactly what you’re dealt when Mother! begins. She’s a woman who’s constant in her serving of her husband, convinced that whilst he may currently be stuck in a rut when it comes to his work, he has the talent to pull it all around in the end. Lawrence proves here she has the acting chops to take to this role like a duck to water, despite giving much different performances in the past. She’s the glue that holds this whole piece together, and as she panics as her world crumbles around her, the weight of that also crushes down on the viewer.
Javier Bardem also does well to portray the husband who’s looking for something a little more than what he already has. He’s proud of his past work, but he wants to move on from it and do something even more special. Whether his intentions are good or bad is something audiences will constantly be flip-flopping on, and Bardem does well to ensure that his performance brings a level of mystery and secrecy to proceedings.
By the time Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer arrive in their respective roles, you’re already wondering if this is a relationship built with a two-way street, or one in which Lawrence’s character is doing all of the giving and getting nothing in return. Harris and Pfeiffer’s characters only drive the apparent wedge further between the pair, but this isn’t your typical story about a marriage in danger.
Is it a compelling piece of cinema and something that, once you’ve wrapped your head around everything, should be celebrated? Yes. But to say that this is a masterpiece is certainly a stretch. Something that special wouldn’t require the majority of viewers to pick up their phones and get on search engines to figure out what went down. The two hours should have been enough for Aronofsky to tell his story without so much confusion, but that’s not what happened.
Instead, we were given sequences upon sequences of some frankly shocking stuff that's not for the faint of heart. If you go to the cinema to be tested, then Aronofsky's work is certainly for you. If you go for an escape, as I suggest the majority of people do, this is probably one best left avoided.
A film that I never really fully understood, Mother! undoubtedly has an extremely intelligent subtext at play, but it was one that managed to almost evade my senses entirely. A fantastic idea, but not one that was executed with perfection.
Mother! is available now on Digital Download, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD.