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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'll be honest I f**king hated 'Mother!', and by that I mean I
absolutely loathed it. If you thought 'Black Swan' was pretentious,
well you haven't yet seen writer-director Darren Aronofsky's latest
self-aggrandizing piece of 'artistic filmmaking'.
The titular character is never named, and as played by Jennifer Lawrence, is the adoring wife of an also unnamed middle-aged poet referred to as 'Him' (Javier Bardem) stuck in writer's block. They live in a gorgeous octagonal Victorian mansion, which she is painstakingly renovating. We find out later that the house was burned down in a fire which consumed her husband's first wife, and that he had pulled from the ashes a burnished crystal which he now displays proudly in his study.
Then out of the blue, a stranger (Ed Harris) turns up at their doorstep. He says he's an orthopaedic surgeon who's looking for a place to stay, and that he had mistaken their house for a bed-and- breakfast. To her horror, 'Him' invites the 'man' to stay; and by the next day, his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives, followed by their two quarrelling sons (Domhnall and Brian Gleeson). Before the day is over, one son will bludgeon and accidentally kill the other, resulting in a pool of blood on the wooden floorboards that she will scrub clean save for a patch shaped in a vagina.
It doesn't take a genius to see the parallel with the Cain and Abel story in the Bible, or the 10 plagues that make a brief appearance one by one. Those familiar with Aronofosky will know that he has been fascinated with Christianity from his first feature 'Pi' to 'Noah' to 'The Fountain', Aronofsky has consistently drawn allegories and imagery from Biblical stories. 'Mother!' is no different, but there is no coherence, no logic and no purpose in his references here.
The anything-goes, anyhow-told narrative has unwelcome strangers turning up at her house to mourn the death of the 'man's' son, an unleashing of pent-up passion between her and 'Him', her unexpected pregnancy afterwards that lets her morph into the Virgin Mary, her husband's sudden inspiration and overnight success, the arrival of cult followers that want to use her newborn son as blood sacrifice, and last but not least plenty of sectarian wars and conflict that culminate in a full cycle of destruction and reincarnation. Only those enamoured with 'bullshit' will think that revealing any of these unexpected twists and turns amounts to 'spoilers'; but really, it's a lot of shock-and-awe wrapped around a bastardisation of notable Biblical tales for absolutely nothing.
Indeed, even more absurd than the movie itself is how some have tried so strenuously to justify its nonsense. One reading has it as an allegory for the abuse of Mother Earth, a warning for climate change; another explains how it describes the process by which art is created and how the artist eventually becomes a slave to that art; another talks about how some men have treated their women in marriage, reducing them to supporting roles and robbing them of agency and respect. Neither of these interpretations disguises the fact that the movie is a haphazard mess of ideas that never amounts to anything substantial or compelling.
Why then should we put up with its misogyny? Why then should we put up with the overwrought delirium that just gets more and more sickening? Or more fundamentally, why should we even care about what's happening on screen? Not even Lawrence, or Bardem, or Harris, or Pfeiffer can add depth to their characters, which are so thinly written that we wonder why the actors even bothered. And therein lies the stark truth about the madness we are supposed to discern as an expression of profound ideas there is simply nothing behind it, no meaning, no wit and certainly no redemption.
'Mother!' is the sad product of an artist's self-indulgence taken to its own grotesque extremes. It is no art, it is no genius, and it is definitely no masterpiece, despite critics caught up in the same pretension will try to convince you. If you're curious about why we hated it so much, then go see it by all means; otherwise, stay away from this motherf**king disaster.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Darren Aronfsky is a director I follow, even since Pi. He's daring and unpredictable. I loved Requiem For A Dream and Black Swan, the rest of his opus has left me puzzled or downright annoyed. Mother! belongs to the later. All the element's were there - Rosemary's Baby written by Edward Albee - that's what I thought right up to Michelle Pfeiffer's entrance, then something happened - The movie falls through a totally unbelievable, hysterical downward spiral. What? Yes, exactly. Jennifer Lawrence suffers, puffs and moans from the very first frame, well second frame. She's afraid from the word go. She could run away but for some reason she never ventures out of the house. Questions like that become a massive obstacle for us to care and feel connected - Think of Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby or Colin Firth in Apartment Zero - co-habitating with a devil, surrounded by sinister neighbors or unwanted visitors. Those films also had sensational scripts and the narrative even when symbolic was always solidly based on the story at hand - Here it feels like gimmicks - One idea and then round and round the mulberry bush. I don't know how many times she shouts at her husband "Please make them leave" - Jennifer Lawrence goes through it valiantly and vociferously. Javier Bardem as the egomaniacal husband is absurdly unconvincing - and I'm a devoted a fan - Michelle Pfeiffer is the one who brings something new to the proceedings and a truly startling performance. Other than that, I'm sorry to say no to Mother!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First of all, please don't watch this film if you have trouble
understanding metaphors & symbolism.
It's pretty clear that there are quite a number of reviews/rants on this page with people expressing their hate towards the story and how it's been portrayed on screen. It's strange because it looks like they had absolutely no idea what they were watching... it's trivial and shallow to publish a review without any research. However, I do agree that it isn't an easy one to sit through, but some of the greatest films aren't. So again, please don't bother checking it out if your mind is closed, you won't appreciate this masterpiece.
To help deter unaccommodating opinions being regurgitated, I'll try to explain what made the film worth your time.
I believe there are two themes that can be interpreted from Mother!! Therefore, the use of an additional explanation mark is required.
Pretty sure the inconvenient truth to this theory is that when the sh*t hits the fan, mother doesn't like people messing up her house (Earth). Apparently, Darren Aronofsky is not religious but he likes strong environmental messages. He also wrote the script in 5 days.. how long did it take God to create the world? Just saying.
Jennifer Lawrence is (Mother) Earth The house is Earth.
Javier Bardem (Him) is God Creator of life on Earth, loves attention, and forgives everyone.
Ed Harris (Man) is Adam Invited by God to Earth (aka house)
Michelle Pfeiffer (Woman) is Eve Created from Adam's rib (scene where Ed Harris was sick on the toilet)
The crystal is the forbidden fruit (apple)
The baby is the bread at the last supper "Body of Christ"
An extreme version of anxiety in a relationship that is deteriorating. The tense build-up in social interactions and how someone may view a scenario where they feel left out and forgotten. The jealousy someone feels when their bond is shared. Not paying attention to the needs of one another in a relationship. Having a baby to keep the relationship alive. All these emotions are magnified/multiplied by 100 to the point it's literally terrifying, so crazy that it may make you laugh. Finally, once the love has completely diminished, the only thing left is to leave and start again new.
Either way, this film is unique and original in the way it's portrayed, packaged and presented.
Hope you can appreciate the beauty of this Gothic religious tale / art-house opera and award the actors & production team that helped make it possible.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this at TIFF and the point this movie was trying to make became
clear fairly early on. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but as the
story developed, the analogies and symbolism went into overkill, to the
point where their excessive nature diminished what was an interesting
The movie is helmed by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, two actors I'm particularly fond of. The short summary of this movie is that they are a couple who live in a beautiful, remote home. One night they take in an unwanted house guest (Harris), more at Bardem's choosing than Lawrence's. This leads to countless other house guests and invasions from the outside world, often to the detriment of Bardem & Lawrence's beautiful home, and Lawrence's well-being.
As the movie goes on, these violations against the home and Lawrence get increasingly bizarre and excessive. They get laid on so thick that, even if you have figured out the analogy by the midway point of the movie and enjoy the way the movie is getting it's point across, the sheer madness that transpires in the second half of the film is likely to sour you on the overkill applied to the message.
It becomes fairly apparent that the house and Lawrence's character from which the movie is titled represent our planet. Bardem's character represents a creator/God (in credits, his character is simply known as 'Him'). Harris and Pfeiffer, the original, invasive guests, are the original Man & Woman (Adam & Eve), and from there, a lot of the plot initially descends from biblical references and then into His desire to provide for his followers and to be adored by them, ignorant of how detrimental they are to the house and Mother.
At the very end, the house becomes overpopulated with people who are both zealots and warmongers who descend into utter 'WTF' madness while they destroy the home, murder the couple's child, and force Mother to burn down the home she so painstakingly created, killing everyone inside it. After the fire, He carries her out, and recreates the home with a new Mother.
As I said, it's a story thick on symbolism and message. I personally liked what they were going for, but think it could have been a much better movie if they had done it far subtly than with the extreme overkill they employed in the second half of this film. Looking at the reviews, I see a lot of people torn by this movie, and I think for these reasons. Some people didn't clue into the message very well and just thought it was a movie that made no sense. Others may not have liked the pro-environment analogies, while some may have loved how excessive the movie hammered it's point home. Another group likely felt how I did - that the plot and point was unique and interesting, but the sheer madness the film careened into during the second half was extremely excessive.
Overall, I give it a 6/10, with disappointment that a promising concept wasn't executed more sensibly.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was in the right mood for a smart horror film, they used to be my favorite kind of film until they sort of disappeared, the smart part not the horror. I'm a huge fan of Polanski's The Tenant - it terrified me more than any other film, followed shortly by 2 other Roman Polanski masterpieces, Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby. There are others - Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, Martin Donovan's Apartment Zero, Alex De La Iglesias's La Comunidad, Davin Lynch's Eraserhead and Blue Velvet in particular. Most of Luis Bunuel's work and a few others. Mother! reminded me somehow of some of them but it was just like a tease that didn't really matured into anything.Here everything is outrageously on the nose but not in a phenomenal Ken Russell way but in a rather obvious, unconvincing, "look at me" kind of thing. I love Jennifer Lawrence but in Mother! she wakes up at the beginning of the film and she's already panicky. Please, don't misunderstand me, I'm not suggesting a prequel! No, clearly Darren Aronfski gave the audience too much credit or not enough because for me, as a member of the audience, left me cold. I may have winced at the sight of blood but it didn't frighten me. The "wound" on the floor? Remember the hole in the wall of "The Tenant"? Maybe it's my fault. I've seen too many films and young audiences haven't. I've read some of the positive comments and I imagine they are from very young people who feel, quite rightly, they been given something besides Marvel and they have. I only hope they use it as a gateway to discover some of the "old" films. And as for Mother! what I enjoyed was the totally unexpected turn by Michelle Pfeiffer. Dark and funny, mocking or better still, paying tribute to Ruth Gordon - I imagine. I left the theater with a desperate need to revisit Rosemary's Baby and you know what? I will. So after all said and done, thank you.
Horrifying. Just.. horrifying. Aronofsky really got me with this one. Not only did he manage to grab me on an intellectual level, but also on an emotional one. This movie is going to be hated by many, I know that now. But for me, this is, hands down, the movie of the year. Every shot, cut, and scream is perfectly constructed to make an immersive atmosphere that never relents in it's uncomfortable feeling, and the acting is seriously award worthy. Javier Bardem is absolutely wonderful, and Jennifer Lawrence... oh man... her performance is absolutely top notch. At first I couldn't quite relate to her character, but as the film progressed, her mindset became my mindset, and we essentially merged into one force of fear and terror that was absolutely unstoppable until the ending. I cannot praise her performance enough in this review. Her emotions leaked from every frame she was in, and it broke my heart and scared me witless the whole way through the film. Aronofsky's pacing is immaculate as well, the whole movie feeling not a second too slow or quick, the events rolling on naturally and in a way that felt very satisfying. The whole way through, I was riveted and invested by the acting and cinematography, which is definitely Aronofsky's best I've seen so far. The entire film is gripping, horrifying, heartbreaking, and absolutely wonderful. Nothing about this movie pulled me out of it. Watching this in a theater was like being in a bomb shelter while the world ended, every sound apocalyptic and every camera shake filling my view. If you can, watch this on the biggest screen you can with the best surround sound you can afford. If you only watch one movie this year, make it this one. This movie is incredible. This is why I study the movies.
Maybe the intention was to make a terrifying comedy about, about, about...well, I'm not sure. A Mother! like that with an exclamation mark? An artist with an ego bigger than their house? Who knows. I certainly tried to cling on to something but I couldn't. It seems like a terrible confession to make but the truth is I couldn't care less about that mother because I didn't believe in her plight and couldn't understand her behavior. Jennifer Lawrence is a terrific actress we all know that but here, she screams and screams while I glanced at my watch with mounting impatience. Borrowing from other, better films, doesn't help, on the contrary, it irritates. Rosemary's Baby came to mind as well as The Tenant, Apartment Zero, Common Wealth. All films that terrified me without explicit gore and superb screenplays. Mother! seems like an interesting idea totally derailed by an out of control ego.
I have a nagging feeling that the raves come from people in their 20's and/or younger. I maybe wrong but the debate erupting from this movie reeks of youth. Something similar happened with Terrence Malnick's The Tree Of Life. People either loved it or hated it. From my own personal POV the only different between The Tree Of Life and Mother! is that The Tree Of Life was a masterpiece without any visual cope outs and, perhaps, the only commercial concession were in big star names but even then Brad Pitt gives one of the best performances of his career. Mother ! Is not a masterpiece, not to me anyway. I couldn't connect. Was it a comedy of the absurd? When I saw all the people dancing and partying in the house I had a flash back to Blake Edwards's "The Party"Jennifer Lawrence is a truly gifted actress and beautiful to boot and, quite clearly, she put herself in Darren Aronfski's hands, She, the mother, calls out "Baby"? Hoping to find her husband - She is a Saint Joan half burned already. That truly puzzled me. Can you please give us time to connect with her? A few minutes. If you remember Mia Farrow's Rosemary - She was, emotionally, so far away from what she's about to confront. Polanski takes the audience through her journey and we're with her, every step of the way. What makes it so terrifying is the veil of normalcy that surrounds the proceedings. In Mother, the surreal takes over the atmosphere and destroys it. We can keep a distance without really participating. The same can be said of Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer - They are a welcome, semi-camp addition at the perfect time and then, they disappear. The glory of Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer in Rosemary's Baby is that their intrusion is taken all the way through to extraordinary results. And Javier Bardem/John Cassavetes? If you're interested watch Rosemary's Baby again like I did last night, 24 hours after seeing Mother!and then you tell me. In my modest opinion one is a flawless masterpiece the other is just okay.
These days, we live in a world where most things are terrible and don't
make any sense. Yet, a film like Mother! can still come along and
disgust audiences. A film so off-putting, Rex Reed declared it "The
worst film of the century". Make no mistake, Mother! is a profoundly
polarizing film. But that is only because it went mainstream. It stars
mainstream actors. It's distributed by Paramount. In recent years, the
art-house and the multiplex have never crossed paths. But as the era of
the blockbuster fades away, it was only a matter of time for Hollywood
to return back to it's roots. To bring us back to the late 1960's,
where most films meant something. Films that grab you. Films that push
serious boundaries. I rarely leave a theater shaken. But Mother! did
just that. It is a beautiful, terrifying assault on your senses.
Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a lovely couple. Bardem is a struggling poet, while Lawrence tends to her house obsessively. Everything seems fine on the surface. What's that, you ask? The house has a heart! I admit the deed! Tear up the planks! Here, here! It's the beating of his hideous heart! ... and scene. Thank you for indulging me. No seriously, the house has a heart.. and internal organs. It's a living entity. I heard of the phrase "Home is where the heart is" but this is ridiculous. Is it? Lawrence plays someone that wants to be a mother to something. Her house? What happens when adoring fans come rushing in to see Bardem? Unwelcome visitors all! They wreck the house and impede on Lawrence's hard work. This must not go on. To fill the void, Bardem and Lawrence conceive a child. As the days go on, the guest list becomes bigger and bigger. By the film's midpoint, the house becomes a small city of thieves and squatters. After that, I must not share anymore. Because if you're already confused by what I'm telling you.. you don't know what confused is, my friend.
How does one interpret Mother! It's the quintessential art-house/midnight movie. Therefore, anything is plausible. Aronofsky intended it that way. He juggles many concepts and critiques about life itself. Motherhood, paranoia, fame, claustrophobia, selfishness, lust, rage, war, peace, religion, gender, history.. Mother! is whatever you want it to be and more. If you know that going in, this will be a breeze. If you don't, you will loathe every second of this film and I won't blame you. It is a lot to swallow. The climax of the picture is well orchestrated insanity. Arguably, the most intense sequence of events captured on screen since Children of Men. By comparison, Requiem for a Dream is almost entirely palpable. You sit back in your seat and think "Enough already. This is too much. Wow. It's not stopping. Please stop.". But that is precisely the point. Aronofsky does not let up until you are mentally drained from watching. But at least to ease some of the pain, you see a lot of Jennifer Lawrence's face, up-close. Most of the film is on her face. In real life, she is in a relationship with Aronofsky. Coincidence? No, not a coincidence. This is the mark of a filmmaker madly in love with his star. On an emotional level, that shows.
Mother! is not a film to go into blind.. but that certainly helps the experience. Polarizing, disturbing films are not crowd pleasures by any stretch, but that's never been an area that bothers me. Films like these fascinate me. Their lack of decorum fascinates me. The reactions from the audience fascinate me. On Lars Von Trier's best day, he couldn't have conjured a film like Mother! .. and if he did, he would've have let it be seen in a shopping mall.
Try to imagine Darren Aronfski with all his talent, preparing Mother in silence working with great actors, re-polishing the script and without the weight of a huge budget. I'm sure Roman Polanski had pressure from the studio to make concessions here and there but look at Rosemary's Baby and tell me. What concessions? I heard Martin Donovan, the director of Apartment Zero, a few months ago, explaining why he hasn't made an American film in 20 years. It was an explanation I'll never forget. He didn't blame anyone or anything, there was no blame of any kind but a deep and I should say, humble reflection and the fruit of his reflection was expressed, beautifully, in his excitement as he prepares his next film. I remembered his words as I watched Mother! Try to imagine Darren Aronfski with all his talent, giving time for the baby to be totally form and ready to be born. Working with great, new, unknown actors, without pyrotechnics but just the truth within the symbols (if any) - I love Jennifer Lawrence and I would have loved to see her play this role at the time of Winter's Bone - regardless of her youth. I believe that small private dreams/nightmares should be told with a feeling of privacy. Think Roman Polanski himself played the meek tittle character in The Tenant and the journey in Mia Farrow's eyes throughout Rosemary's Baby, Colin Firth's invisibility in Apartment Zero. In Mother there is also a Luis Bunuel touch from The Exterminating Angel but in Bunuel we live the surreal mystery with all our five senses. In Mother, we keep questioning, at a distance. No matter how close you come with the camera. Jennifer Lawrence is lovely but she starts with fear in her eyes and she stays there throughout. Javier Bardem is a sloppy variation of John Cassavetes in Rosemary's Baby. Ed Harris, as usual, superb as the Sidney Blackmer of the situation and Michelle Pfeiffer, who provides the biggest and most welcome surprise in a character clearly based on Ruth Gordon's Minnie in the same Polanski masterpiece. For all of the above I felt, sitting through Mother! A long and irritating experience. Now, I'd like to set a complaint about this, who shall I call?
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