My original plan for this review, since I was hoping to Mandate it, was to get the best of both worlds by recording my own immediate thoughts on the film and then transcribing them into a review. It would have been easier and a different take on your standard babble trying to describe what you just saw and how you felt or connected with it. Unfortunately (or maybe for the better) Darren Aronofsky put together a film challenging enough that I was left in full ramble mode, and found myself recording something that bounced too far all over the place to make any sense. Plus, I was spoiling almost the entirety of the film.
Now that I’ve sat on it for a while, I have since figured it all out and, I think, have my thoughts together on it. But therein lies another problem: how do I actually get out what I want to say and not spoil the whole film? I’ve already read some of the early reviews that give away the major plot point, which if you didn’t figure it out by then, isn’t revealed until one of Javier Bardem’s last lines in the movie. Some of the reviews spoil it in their titles so a reader has no chance to steer clear of it if they wanted to. Even Jennifer Lawrence gave away a key clue in her most recent interview with Jimmy Kimmel right from the jump and had to be stopped by Kimmel, who has seen the film. She further stated that she can’t talk about it without just telling everyone the entire thing. This is essentially the same thing I have to do in order to get my feelings across. I would suggest anyone that has serious interest in the film to stop reading now and come back after you have viewed it. This way you can have the story peeled back layer by layer for the first time viewing, as intended. I think knowing some of the key elements ahead of time will ruin the initial run for you.
*****SPOILERS TO FOLLOW****
Mother!, to get right to it, is the story of the bible but with Aronofsky being a noted atheist, it’s definitely presented through that lens. In this film, Javier Bardem takes on the role of God, which is only referred to as “The Poet” throughout the film and spends most of the two hours gaslighting his wife, the “Mother” character (aka Mother Earth), played by the magnificent Jennifer Lawrence. The film basically plays out in two acts. The first act involves Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, who fill the roles of Adam and Eve, in which they commit original sin and are banished from the house after their sons have a Cain and Abel fight to the death throughout the entire first floor. After some mourners arrive and start disrespecting her and her house, all while the Poet feels the need to help them, she finally lashes out. She kicks the guests out, after they cause a flood in her kitchen, and berates the Poet about not having sex with her. Immediately, after having sex the night before, the next day she claims she’s pregnant, which ignites the Poet’s creativity to write his next piece of work (aka The New Testament). The second half of the movie is less biblical and more historical commentary on the nature of man surrounding their beliefs and commentary on the ego of God as he gaslights the earth in her crucial times. In the case of the film, it’s while she is in labor, obviously with the Christ child, and dealing with the chaos that is going on around her throughout her entire house. There are more allegories to the crucifixion, the apocalypse via a fossil fuel (note: Aronofsky is an environmentalist), and God’s never-ending need for love and approval. But the director also smartly throws nods at some real life situations as early on in the film, the age between Bardem and Lawrence is pointed out, which is to address the age gap between Aronofsky and Lawrence in real life, and Lawrence’s nude photo hack is symbolized in a gang beating in which her clothes get torn off, exposing her breasts. Jennifer Lawrence has said the photo hack incident was violating and an assault on her privacy, which I think the brief scene captured very well. The point is driven home by the fact that there are multiple lingering shots of Lawrence’s breasts throughout the film and when the audience sees them exposed, it’s in a very violating nature. Much like it was for her in real life.
***END OF SPOILERS***
The film is a wild ride from start to end with imagery and cinematography akin to Kubrick and the eerie sense of dread of Rosemary’s Baby, especially once Lawrence’s character becomes pregnant. Mother! is Darren Aronofsky’s second film in a row about religion and this couldn’t be further from the relatively straightforward Noah if it tried. Where Noah presented a biblical story, it was very friendly to the idea of God smiting the wicked and pushed an “evolutionary creationism” which isn’t really in line with Aronofsky’s personal atheistic beliefs. Mother! essentially shits all over God’s ego and man’s downfall for acting out in his name and its plot is not spoon-fed to you like Noah, either.
I think Requiem For A Dream will always be my favorite Darren Aronofsky film, but Mother! has probably lodged itself into the #2 slot. This is simply a beautifully crafted film that will challenge the viewer throughout. If you enjoyed films like The Witch and It Comes At Night, that don’t come easy for you, then you’ll love Mother!.