Film Review: mother! (2017)

2017 in Cinema:

mother!, 2017

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer

 

Wow. Erm. I genuinely do not know where to begin with this film.

Right, mother! is about a married couple, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who plays mother, and Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men), who plays Him, who live isolated in a home miles away from any form of civilisation. Him at the start places a crystal object on a stand and the house seems to recover itself from the burnt state it’s in at the start, we then meet mother, who seems to magically form from the house’s ashes in her bed, and the film begins. They live a nice happy life, mother loves decorating the house and Him is a struggling poet who is suffering from writer’s block. man (Ed Harris, A Beautiful Mind) then knocks on their door and is invited inside by Him, against mother’s wishes, and the next day woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives, she’s the wife of man. Then their children arrive, oldest son (Domhnall Gleeson, American Made) and younger brother (Brian Gleeson), and they get into an alteration. mother then becomes pregnant and from there the film just goes crazy. Him writes a brilliant poem and everyone loves it and they flock from miles and miles to see him, and are all invited in their home by Him, again against mother’s wishes. Oh, the house is alive, too. I think. And, yes, the characters aren’t really named.

Firstly, the acting is fantastic. I may be biased towards Jennifer Lawrence (she’s amazing, isn’t she?) but both she and Bardem are fantastic in this film. Harris and Pfeiffer, and a few other special guests along the way, are also brilliant. Aronofsky’s films in the past (particularly Black Swan) have garnered Oscar-winning performances (in that case from Natalie Portman), so it’s no surprise, really, to see these films so well acted. But on the negative side, I didn’t overly love the camera work. The camera seems to be very focused on Jennifer Lawrence (which isn’t a bad thing, really), in an over-the-shoulder-esque way. There’s moments where we are at a close up of Lawrence, before she turns round and we follow her, so now we’re at a close up of the back of her head as she walks. This happens a lot and I wasn’t a major fan of it. Although I must admit the end scenes where the house is full of people these camera angles help with the claustrophobia she’s feeling, as the camera follows her going through crowds of people. But that slight benefit of it didn’t outweigh its negative effect.

A few months ago I watched It Comes at Night and left the cinema feeling confused at what had just happened (especially with there being no ‘It’), and I felt the same after this film. For once I purposefully chose to remain in my seat throughout the credits to try and make heads or tails of what just happened, and it was there where I got a clue about its meaning. After the rating below I’ll explain what I mean, so spoiler alert, but I won’t do that here.

A brilliantly acted film, but it certainly will divide opinion: is this a great film? Yes. Is this a terrible film? Yes. I can understand both sides of the argument. It has fantastic performances, and the plot seems to progress naturally, but it’s so confusing; if you go in without any prior knowledge of it, that it may turn you off.

 

Plot: * * *

Acting: * * * * *

Writing: * * * *

Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * * * ¾

 

mother! explained:

Spoiler alert!

This review, you may have noticed, is slightly different from what I normally do with use of character names. The biggest clue I got for the point of the film came in the form of character names during the end credits where I saw mother, Him, man and woman, and one of those names stands out. Him is the only character with a capitalised name and that’s where I got the idea that this was a religious character. Initially I went with him being the devil (with the crowds of people who invade their home being cult followers (a la Rosemary’s Baby, which it has received many similarities towards: I mean, look at the poster, if that’s not a direct reference to Rosemary’s Baby I don’t know what is)), and they kill the baby (the baby of the Him, Him being the devil) and eat it to eat the blood of the devil. And while it can be viewed that way the truth is that it’s the opposite, and it’s about Him being God.

This is all one big allegory for the story of the bible: Him being God and mother being mother earth, with Him allowing two humans, a man and a woman (Adam and Eve?) onto the planet against her will. The man, in one scene, is seen with a scar across the side of his body, and the next day the woman arrives despite nobody knowing he had a wife, eerily similar to Adam using a rib to create Eve. After the two sons, who could be Cain and Abel, fight and one of them dies, Him and mother have sex (which Him was against throughout the film) and mother gets pregnant. The son of mother and Him being Jesus. God’s poem could be the bible, with everyone coming to his house to worship it and await the baby Jesus’ birth. All the people flooding in are against mother’s wishes, against mother earth’s wishes, and inside the house they steal anything they can take. This could be an allegory for humans invading planet earth and taking it all for ourselves: we take land, we break stuff, we don’t care for mother earth’s opinion. Despite mother wanting the crowd to go, Him loves that they’re all there to worship him, again showing the humans who worship God. Jesus is then born and accidentally killed by the mass of people, as Jesus in reality was crucified, and then the baby is eaten and drank, an allegory for the bread and wine story of Christ. mother soon gets attacked, possibly showing how humans are treating earth, before she becomes angry and blows the house up to wipe out the house’s population, sounds similar to the big flood in the bible? mother then dies as Him takes out her heart, revealing another crystal, and creates a new home with a new woman and the cycle begins again. This could explain why Him was so against having sex with mother as he knew the outcome and how the cycle would happen all over again.

The whole film is about the bible, and I managed to get most of this by the use of a single capital letter in Him’s name (and a quick Google search afterwards to see if I was right about Him being the devil), but this could have been so easily missed, which is why I believe it’s getting the negative reviews that it has: without the knowledge or context it’s just a crazy, crazy film with so many incidents happening that aren’t explained that it will leave people confused. How did mother know she was pregnant the night after they had sex? Why were the crowd of people painting her house? Why was Him so forgiving to all the people who murdered his baby? So many questions that without research may leave you disliking the film.

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