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mother! Movie Review

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One movie that I’ve been looking forward to this year is mother!, the brand new film from Darren Aronofsky. While I am a fan, I wouldn’t say that he’s one of my absolute favorites to the point where this screening was an event for me, but I’d understand if that were the case for someone. This is also the only movie with Jennifer Lawrence this year, which is insanely weird given that she’s an Oscar winner who always seems to be popping up in big event movies like Hunger Games and X-Men. I guess nobody can complain about “Jennifer Lawrence fatigue” this year because there isn’t much evidence to support that. Nevertheless, she’s a huge star partnered with the director of the movie that won Natalie Portman her Oscar, and mother! was being marketed as the movie that was going to turn my brain into butterscotch pudding. If that doesn’t sound like an absolute ball, I don’t know what does! Let’s talk about the movie!

mother! (yes, with no capital letters and an exclamation point at the end) is directed by Darren Aronofsky and stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Mother, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is married to Him, played by Javier Bardem. “Him” is a poet struggling with writer’s block, but when a fan and his wife show up at the doorstep of the couple’s house, things start to get fuzzy for Mother. Random people begin to disobey her rules, do favors that she never asked for, and completely invade her space and her privacy. Also, the house has a heart, a bloody hole, and a secret door. If none of that makes sense, good. I think that’s the way Darren Aronofsky likes it.

There are a couple of words off the top of my head that I could use to describe this movie, but since this is the positives section of the review, I’ll start with the word “art.” This is art. Darren Aronofsky’s thoughts are splattered all over his canvas, and it’s definitely inspired by Aronofsky’s feelings and ideas. In that, I think that there is a beauty to this movie. It’s in the hands of the perfect (or only) man for the job, and he is reflecting all over this movie. It’s directed so well in a way that never really allows the audience to breathe, and I found that to work for Jennifer Lawrence’s character in the film. The constant close proximity to the humans in the film never allowed me to take a step back and absorb, which I found effective. It looks fantastic, and the visuals along with the camerawork do a great job of portraying the absolute chaos of the film. There are points in this movie where I felt like I was being driven mad, and mother! was under my skin for a good portion of the runtime. This review might seem vague because I can’t really examine the film without spoiling anything, but with the way I think the movie is to be interpreted, the chaos works to a certain extent. I also think that Jennifer Lawrence is excellent in the film. I typically look at Jennifer Lawrence and see her acting the heck out of her role. In this, she’s much more subtle and aims to discover the roots of her confusion along with the audience, and I liked that.

I think I may be one of the few people on the planet who will find both positive and negative things to say about the film. It’s definitely going to be divisive, and there’s no wonder why. If you want to see Darren Aronofsky splatter his brain all over the place, this movie might be for you. Actually, even if you don’t want that, this movie might be for you. If you fall into either of those two categories, there’s also a very good chance that this movie isn’t for you. I’m just going to stop because I can’t figure out how to group who is going to like this movie and who is going to hate this movie. As far as the negatives go, I’ll start with the pacing and the structure. I definitely found the first act of the film to be incredibly slow. For about forty minutes, it’s the same game where we’re slightly suspicious of everything going on, but Lawrence’s character still learns nothing. It’s repetitive, and we never seem to learn anything new to advance the plot. There’s all this symbolism floating all over the place, but it never really comes to fruition in the first act. I don’t need to see a conclusion in the first forty minutes, but I want to feel like we’ve established a purpose. I didn’t feel that way in this film. In fact, it’s hard to say that I ever felt a purpose established throughout the movie, which is where my next negative comes. I found mother! to be very pretentious, and it didn’t feel like it was a movie made for storytelling purposes. Yes, I get the movie, and I find that a lot of it is very open to interpretation, but I didn’t find this particular story in this particular storytelling style to hit the mark. It’s almost purposely trying to rattle your cage and curb stomp its symbolism and chaos into your brain until you finally give in. It’s a rare film in that I want to watch it again because I want to soak it in knowing what I know now, but at the same time, I’d be more than content knowing that I never have to watch it again in my lifetime. There are aspects of greatness in this film, but I can’t get the dreadful slowness of the first act or the messy taste of the third act out of my brain, all combining to make Aronofsky’s self-important allegory.

Overall, mother! is the biggest toss-up of the year. As a person who writes reviews, I try to send viewers out to movies that I think are worth seeing. On this one, I’m just not sure. If you’re excited to see it, maybe give it a look. If you’re hoping for the most terrifying mainstream horror film of the year, this is not it. I repeat, this is not it. Again, if you’re dying to see the movie, don’t let me be the one to tell you not to. The movie is spectacular from a technical standpoint, and I think that was my first reaction coming out of the film. I adore the technical side, I battle with the idea that it’s saying something meaningful. There are specks of greatness in this film like Aronofsky’s visual direction and artistic integrity, Jennifer Lawrence’s performance, and its sheer ability to bug the living daylights out of me when it wants to, but mother! didn’t give me what I craved from a storytelling or meaningful perspective. I found it to be an oddly structured, pretentious mess that didn’t have anything to say to me as a person. Yes, I get what Aronofsky was going for. At least, I think I do. Reading through the credits makes it pretty obvious what he was going for, but as an audience member and a viewer, I don’t see much reason for seeing this movie other than to find out what goes on inside the mind of the director. Other than that, I found it pretty meaningless without anything to connect to. I thought about this movie for a couple of hours after seeing it, and I think that it took every second of those hours to fully understand how I felt about the film. I wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t convince myself that it worked for me. This is a tough movie to write about as compared to discussing it with someone in person. If anyone would like to sit down and talk about the movie, please give me a call. I have a feeling I might get more of a takeaway from discourse about the film than the actual film itself. I’m going to give mother! a 4/10.

Will you be seeing mother! this weekend? Comment down in the comment section and let me know! As always, thank you, and keep listening to 88.7 The Pulse!

Justin Lyons

Hey, it's Justin Lyons! I am the Chief Film Critic for The Pulse. Have any questions for me? Please feel free to email me at [email protected]