If you’ve seen films such as Black Swan or Noah, then you may be familiar with the style of the man that directed them: Darren Aronofsky. Famous for bringing life to some of the most controversial, but yet beautifully, constructed films in this era of filmmaking. Aronofsky really added on to the conversation with his newest movie, mother!
I was a bit apprehensive about the prospect of sitting through two hours of what I believed to be an intense movie and while it was indeed intense, what followed was something I wasn’t quite expecting. Quick heads up if you’re planning on watching mother! or reading my review until the end: there will be heavy spoilers and there is a disturbing depiction of infancy death.
The only knowledge of mother! that I had prior to watching the film was the trailer and let me tell you all, if you only know that going in, you know absolutely nothing about the film. I thought mother! was going to be about a housewife (Jennifer Lawrence) and her poet husband (Javier Bardem), who is experiencing writer’s block or having their home invaded by what I conceived to be the main antagonists, both played by Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris. However, it quickly became clear that this was not the case. Suddenly, I was sucked into a whirlwind of frantic thought as I desperately tried to unravel what the movie was about.
Well, first a horror film, then maybe a suspense/thriller, then possibly paranormal. There were unsettling scenes of Lawrence looking through the walls of her home and seeing/hearing a beating heart hidden within. Then I thought that perhaps it was a tale of spousal abuse. The distance Bardem put between himself and Lawrence was tangible. He neglected her, disregarded her wishes, and happily indulged complete strangers by allowing them into their home without consulting Lawrence simply because they were a fan of his work as a poet.
Lawrence was not the only aspect of the film being ignored and neglected. Basic respect for someone else’s home was also glaringly absent. The first couple invaded Bardem’s personal rooms and destroyed property. Their sons burst in unexpected and one of them ends up killing the other and they invited more guests over for the reception of the son’s funeral. This eventually snowballs into an increasingly rowdy, rude, and disruptive crowd that believes Lawrence’s home is their own. All the while, Lawrence is the only one having any realistic reaction to what is happening in her house.
As the movie progressed with Lawrence’s sanity gradually diminishing and Bardem allowing more people into their house, I was still horribly confused and agitated. I was getting exhausted just watching Lawrence attempting to hold it together for the duration of the movie.
Finally, at the movie’s end, it all clicked: the whole movie was a metaphor for the Bible. Bardem represented God and his struggles with creation, the first couple was Adam and Eve, the two sons were Cain and Abel. Lawrence and her home, with all the love she poured into constructing it and the distress she felt with the unwelcome destruction and invasion, was Mother Nature.
Go one step further and you’ll see that the baby Lawrence and Bardem have is symbolic of Jesus Christ, and if you’re familiar with the fate of Jesus and the practices of the Eucharist, you can uncover what happens to the baby without me having to tell you. Yes, it went there. One quick Google search at the theater’s exit told me that I was right.
I have muddled and conflicted thoughts about this movie. On the one hand, my head is still screaming an emotion that I can only describe as “… What?!” since I emerged from the theater. On the other hand, once the metaphor is revealed and you can appreciate the details from the beginning of the movie and how it added to Aronofsky’s message, it was a well-constructed film. But was it good for the right reasons?
I went into the theater believing I was watching one type of movie and left feeling like I might have enjoyed it better if I wasn’t feeling so cheated. This consensus is reflected among multiple reviews and critics of the film that I’ve seen since watching it. Rotten Tomatoes rated this film at a 67%; not horribly bad, but not too good either. I think the marketing for this movie was just aimed at the wrong audience. It drew in people, such as myself, that were willing to either a horror or thriller or maybe even a story of a supernatural entity disrupting the peaceful home. Instead, they received mother!
Aronofsky’s portrayal of the Bible in mother! is certainly creative and you can feel the ambition he has in bringing forth a new depiction that would get people talking. Unfortunately, the artistic value of the movie doesn’t work with the crowd it drew in, and Aronofsky’s message was distorted in the aftermath.