Dan's Review: "Mother!" takes swipe at God, misses
Sep 14, 2017 19h14
By Dan Metcalf
Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence in Mother! - © 2017 Paramount Pictures
Mother! (Paramount Pictures)
Rated R for strong disturbing violent content, some sexuality, nudity and language.
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, Kristen Wiig, Jovan Adepo, Stephen McHattie.
Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky.
It seems to me that some notable independent film artists follow a pattern, of sorts. They sell their souls, mortgage all their possessions and beg or borrow enough money to make a breakthrough film. A few lucky (and talented) ones win awards, get their work purchased by a major distributor, and sign deals that allow them to make major motion pictures without financial encumbrance. They date/marry movie stars, make bigger budget films, and then…hubris takes over, and they realize they have a forum to let the world know all about their core beliefs (whether the world wants to know about them or not). Darren Aronofsky follows this pattern (in my opinion), and we’ve reached the full measure of his hubris with this week’s release of Mother!, a surreal horror film he wrote and directed, with all kinds of personal insights about God, humankind and nature.
None of the characters are named in the film, but the main players are “Mother” (Jennifer Lawrence) and “Him” (Javier Bardem). The couple lives in a secluded old house in the middle of a vacant field (no roads or paths), where “Mother” works to renovate the old building into the perfect living space. Meanwhile, “Him,” a poet known for writing a famous work some years earlier, grumps around trying to break out of a writer’s slump. “Mother” is spooked by visions of the home being burned, and a living heartbeat within the walls of the building. One day, a traveler (Ed Harris) arrives at the home thinking it’s a boarding house, planning to stay the night. “Mother” is perplexed by the idea, but “Him” welcomes the traveler to stay the night. Soon, the traveler’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up, disrespecting her host. Later, the couple’s feuding sons appear (Domhnall and Brian Gleeson) and one of them is killed during an argument over their father’s will. After the encounter, “Mother” and “Him” have a major argument that leads to lovemaking and a pregnancy, which miraculously cures the poet’s writer’s block. Months later as the baby is about to be born, the new poetry becomes a smash hit, prompting hundreds of fans to appear at their door to worship “Him.” Things get out of hand when the crowd invades the home and the baby is born. It all ends in a violent, gruesome, apocalyptic outcome, followed by a repeating scenario of sorts.
Sounds cheery, huh?
Mother! is an apparent metaphor for many different aspects of existence, and Aronofsky leaves plenty of room for interpretation. I’m pretty sure “Him” is supposed to be an allegory for “god” or “religion”, and “Mother” represents Earth, while the traveler, his family, and all the needy, adoring poetry fans are supposed to be some sort of representation of humanity, or humanity’s greed or search for meaning. Bardem, Lawrence, Harris and Pfeiffer all perform their roles very well, but let’s dispense with their acting prowess (yeah, they are all talented performers, and Mother! is a great showcase for them), some above-average cinematography and a very effective and creepy motif (art direction).
All filmmaking qualities aside, the core message of Mother! is the biggest load of pretentious rubbish I’ve seen this year. It would seem that Aronofsky’s gnostic vision of humanity (also a major focus of his equally pretentious Noah) is not a very good one, and he doesn’t really have much respect or use for God (or religion), either.
Case in point: During the final “apocalyptic” ending, “Mother’s” baby is taken from her by the adoring poetry fans, ripped to shreds and eaten by the crowd, while “Mother” herself is beaten and sexually assaulted.
Cool story, Bro.
I suppose Aronofsky is trying to champion some kind of environmental message in Mother! (like in Noah), but he offers zero hope, zero answers and even less wisdom regarding the role of man and nature, while taking a not-too-subtle swipe at religion. Good luck with that. Some critics and art lovers may marvel at Mother!’s nihilism, but meanwhile, most of the world a) believes in (a) God, b) tries to make their world better and c) doesn’t give one flying crap about Aronofsky’s dark thoughts about all the above. I certainly don’t.