I remember when the reviews of director Darren Aronofsky’s last film “Noah” came out, the main complaint was the lack of direction outside of his comfort zone. He is a director whose work is infamous for being emotional, often mind-twisting powerhouses, so his previous film was seen as a downgrade by many. I was one of those folks who wanted him to return to his roots, and this film is evidence that I ought to be careful what I wish for.
“Mother!” primarily stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer. The film centers on an unnamed couple who are rebuilding their home in the middle of nowhere. When an unexpected guest and his wife enter their home, their presences challenge the couple’s perfect life. While the husband welcomes any and all camaraderie with others, the wife senses that her home is dying as a result. That is the closest this review can come to summarizing the premise without spoiling the entire plot, as it would take away the intensity of the film’s extraordinariness.
To say “Mother!” is rife with allegory would be an understatement. There are confirmed allusions to Christian iconography throughout the film, namely Eden, the Nativity, and the fall of man. Admittedly, it is low-hanging fruit regarding religious symbolism, and if you have seen the numerous interpretive art films, the viewer will most likely pick up on what is going to happen almost immediately. However, “Mother!” executes its parable with such fluency that it does not destroy the film.
For a metaphorical nightmare, Mother! is still aware of its plot and production. It is solid outside of its mysterious nature, the lighting and cinematography added to the realistic environment, and it is one of the few religious films that did not beat the viewer over the head with its message. The acting is especially fantastic. I was initially skeptical of the casting of Jennifer Lawrence, as not only is she surrounded by veteran actors who could easily overpower her, but I had trouble believing she could carry the entire film on her shoulders. However, her performance was not only good, it was great because the story allowed her to be great. Lawrence has had similar performances in the Hunger Games series, but because of how limited the world-building and visceral intensity was, it squandered her talents. “Mother!” pulls no punches in its disturbing content, and because of its unabashed narrative, Jennifer Lawrence had a chance to show her skills as an actress. She more than delivered.
If readers are considering seeing this, something they will need to contemplate first is whether or not this is their type of film. Just because Aronofsky tagged a mainstream actress’s name on top of billing does not mean it will appeal to everyone. However, if there is one message to take from “Mother!” it is that if a mother can bring someone into this world, she can take them out just as quickly.