Someone needs a hug.
And not one of those loose-barely-touching-hovering-over-one-another kind of hugs you give/receive to/from a friend you haven’t seen in a long time, and definitely not the dreaded hip-high-five-side-hug-from-your-first-crush-after-months-of-what-you-thought-was-successful-flirtation, NO. I mean the deep-powerful-emotionally-charged-Good-Will-Hunting-esque-embrace-by-a-beloved-mentor-as-he-reinforces-with-increasing-effect-that-“it’s not your fault”-as-you-slowly-break-down-in-his-arms, kind of hu
You may be the one who wants that release after watching “mother!”, maybe, but the one man who truly needs that moment of real human compassion and comfort is our writer/director, Darren Aronofsky.
Now first, lets review what the film “mother!” (you have to scream it every time you say it, the laws of punctuation cannot be ignored) is all about. A woman with no name (Jennifer Lawrence) is restoring a beautiful, secluded home while her husband (Javier Bardem), a famous poet, referred to as “the poet”, (pretension meter already beginning to surge) struggles to complete his next great piece of work. This little slice of “heaven” is then interrupted by a stranger, and soon after, his wife, seeking a place to stay. Naturally, conflict arises from this point on. And that’s where I’m gonna stop because honestly I have no idea how to dig into this movie any further without spoiling all of it, and even more honestly maybe I should and spare you a dour 2 hour dive into the mind of a deeply paranoid and cynical human being. I’ll split the difference and talk about Aronofsky more, because he’s all we need to talk about, really.
If you’ve enjoyed such uplifting and delightful little romps like Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan, most recently, Noah, then you know I’m being sarcastic. All of DA’s works have been dark ruminations on the human condition, and in almost every case masterfully so. Mother! is no different in that regard, but where it does differ, is purpose. All of his other works reached a cathartic point of self realization for the characters under survey, and served to convey a message, typically a cautionary one, to the audiences. Mother! did not.
Well I suppose there was a cautionary message. And that message came straight from the darkest recesses of DA’s soul in the form of this celluloid hammer of a film he used to bash our collective skull in as well as any chance of conveying said message in a palatable manner. That message, you ask, was more of his own self realization that “the world sucks and there’s nothing we can do about it”. This film is Darren Aronofsky’s invitation to suffer with him. And that’s it.
To go a bit further, this film does not take place in our world. This entire story (if you can call it that) is an under-cooked crock pot of metaphors (biblical, philosophical, societal, and personal) stuffed into a surreal, allegorical universe with almost no nuance or subtlety to be found. Mother! was nothing more than one man’s cathartic release. He even admitted as much. I’m paraphrasing, but he publicly stated that this script was a fever dream he wrote in 5 days (definitely shows), and I’m speculating slightly now, after he had an emotional breakdown from observing all the horrors of this world. Aronofsky even admitted he didn’t understand his script; he had to shoot the film to understand what he was trying to say, and even after doing so he still doesn’t understand what it is. If your pretentiousness meters haven’t broken by now then you must live in Brooklyn.
Alright, I can already tell that if I don’t reign myself in now then this review is gonna fly off the rails. Let me try and summarize all my thoughts for you…
I liked this film, I think. Or maybe I hated it. And that’s why it’s great…or horrible. Not sure. But that’s exactly why mother! is gonna get a lot of attention, especially from the academic film community: it’s a frustrating, compelling at times, thought experiment about humanity and our relationship with the Earth and God, himself. A film that requires multiple views and deeper analysis to understand, if that’s even possible. Spoilers: it’s not possible because this movie definitely suffers from participation trophy syndrome: mother! you’re not as smart as you so clearly were led to believe. Nevertheless, mother! will be discussed and dissected tirelessly over the coming years. But there’s absolutely merit to a film causing such controversy, conversation, and analysis, which is why I appreciated mother! to a degree. However, this film without question, crossed some lines for no other purpose than to shock people, which I did not appreciate.
Even as I try to summarize my thoughts I can’t help but notice myself still jumping back and forth between such polarized conclusions. That’s what this film does. I truly don’t know if I’m recommending mother! or not. I will say this:
Viewer discretion advised.
**Law and Order DUN DUN to conclude with a much needed moment of levity**