After watching the movie It, my younger son and I followed up with another new horror by going to see my pick, the Darren Aronofsky film Mother! (While rated R in the US, it has a 14A rating in BC.) It looked very intriguing based on the trailer, and I’ve been really impressed with Jennifer Lawrence’s past work in other movies I’ve seen. Her performance in Mother! is no exception. Even though this movie is really well-done and my son and I liked it a lot, it is definitely the weirdest movie I have ever seen!
The basic premise involves a young wife (Lawrence) who is single-handedly renovating her older husband’s home which was destroyed by a fire. The husband, creepily played by Javier Bardem, is a renowned poet who is trying unsuccessfully, at least at first, to break through his writer’s block. The first part of the movie is quite peaceful and centres on their relationship and her work on the house. So far, so normal.
The disrupters come first in the form of two drop-in house guests, Michelle Pfeifer and Ed Harris, being so very intrusive. They are the guests who respect no boundaries and just won’t leave. It’s a slow build, as things get stranger and stranger. Everyone is acting like it’s all normal, but we are shown the goings-on from Lawrence’s character’s point of view, and she can’t understand why any of it is happening.
All the cameras are hand-held, and there is a lot of very close-up shots with faces being larger than the screen. While this is not something I am overly fond of, it does work well to convey the extreme emotion exhibited by the actors, particularly Lawrence. (Apparently, in the most intense scene, she put so much into her screaming that she tore her diaphragm and popped a rib!) As things get weirder, there is some extreme violence (towards a woman and towards a child) and a breast becomes exposed during the fracas. Much of this I found to be a bit excessive, but my son thought it made logical sense given the action that was happening.
As the movie goes on, Lawrence’s character and the audience are equally confused and shaken but compelled to see it all unfold. The house is a living character which is both affected by and affecting the action. The choreography involved in so many seemingly unrelated things going on simultaneously is really well done. And it is a movie that leaves you thinking about what you just saw, trying to interpret its meaning, and talking about it for a long time afterward. There is, as I mentioned, violence that some will find disturbing. In my opinion, though, Mother! is not scary and maybe not even really a horror movie, but it is definitely unique and thought-provoking.
**SPOILER ALERT — SPOILERS AND DISCUSSION OF MEANING BELOW THE TRAILER!**
So in what way is Mother! weird? House guests randomly start painting the walls or helping themselves to pieces of furniture. And while a life affirming event is going on in one room, crazed fans are trying to get in through the door, and various scenes including army battles are going on in other rooms in this house that is gradually being destroyed. Yeah, very weird but also really interesting.
And about the meaning. The people next to me in the cinema said, “Oh that was so obviously the story of religion!” Huh? To me, it seemed a really fascinating study of the desire by some artists to have people not only love their work but also worship them as people, and of what happens when that desire takes over. It also explores fandom taken to the extreme.
Now apparently, neither writer/director Darren Aronofsky nor lead actor Jennifer Lawrence had that meaning in mind at all! Based on a number of interviews I saw, the movie is meant to be allegorical about climate change and the destruction of the Earth seen from Mother Nature’s point of view. Um… okay.
With so much strange stuff happening, there are moments where you just can’t help but laugh and shake your head at the absurdity of the situations. The New York Times in its review calls Mother! a “divine comedy”. And IndieWire names it as “the smartest comedy of 2017”. Just proving, I guess, that this is a movie so unusual that it can be interpreted in very many different ways.
In any event, both my son and I thought that Mother! was a riveting, well-constructed and well-cast movie that we were glad to have experienced.
(Movie stills from IMDb)