by Isaac Owens
Mother!, the seventh movie by the always controversial Darren Aronofsky, is in many ways his most challenging and significant film to date.
Kicking off his career with the 1998 psychological thriller Pi, Aronofsky has never ceased to be both dark and profound. From the heroin fueled nightmare of Requiem for a Dream to a Jewish folktale interpretation of the Biblical epic Noah, the director has been pushing boundaries and dividing audiences since his twenties. With Mother!, we again find Aronofsky in his element and receive his most fully realized and, ultimately, most mature movie yet.
Caught in the midst of Aronofsky’s latest tale is actress Jennifer Lawrence’s unnamed protagonist. She and her husband, a struggling poet, live in the post-fire rubble of his childhood home. As the husband writes, Lawrence takes it upon herself to rebuild their home from the ground up. She cares for the house like a mother would care for a child. Her job? To breathe life into the building and thus into the family. All seems well in the life of this couple, but when an unknown and entirely unexpected guest lands on their front porch, their personal lives come to a halt. Beginning as an uneasy mystery, the film builds up to an unforgettable and outrageous climax of terror and fury.
At its surface level, Mother! is about intrusion. Throughout the course of the film, Lawrence comes face to face with many conflicts, and, taking them on one at a time, she attempts to maintain stability in her life. Aronofsky takes his protagonist and rips the rug out from under her feet. In so many ways, we see emotional battery against Lawrence’s character; it is our jobs as the audience to stand by and watch her take it. The film’s greatness comes from her strength.
At its core, the movie encapsulates several themes. During some points, we encounter religious allegories. Several passages of the Bible are portrayed in great, intimate detail. Theological doubts and the life of the Virgin Mary are prominent topics. Aside from faith, we find many social and political metaphors, but most noticeably present is the construct of motherhood. Journeying through the hardships of the life of every woman, Mother! is undeniably a love letter and even, perhaps, an apology to the female kind. It is a means of expressing gratitude and of calling out under-appreciation.
Mother! is all of this, but it is also remarkably far from any form of conventional storytelling. With its loose plot structure and strong symbolism, the movie is vastly surreal and comparable in structure to David Lynch’s 1977 debut film Eraserhead. Also visible are influences from films such as Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and Terrence Malik’s The Tree of Life.
Due to Mother!’s lack of commonality with most mainstream movies, it has been deemed by the New York Observer as the “Worst movie of the century.” Yes, it is brutal, Kafkaesque, and even pretentious at times, but it is, even more so, beautiful and tender. It’s an existential experience that demands us to question many aspects of our lives. Mother! weighs heavy on its viewer, but if given the attention it deserves, it will be found more rewarding than many movies in recent memory. Mother! isn’t just the best movie of the year so far, but rather it is one of the millennium’s finest and is certainly Aronofsky’s crowning achievement.
This movie receives a 9/10 rating.