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mother!

mother!

Released 15 September 2017
Director Darren Aronofsky
Starring




Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Brian Gleeson, Domhnall Gleeson, Jovan Adepo, Amanda Chiu
Writer(s) Darren Aronofsky
Producer(s)

Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin, Ari Handel
Origin United States
Running Time 121 minutes
Genre Drama, horror, mystery
Rating 119 minutes
70

Traumatic birth.

The title of Darren Aronofsky’s latest film is mother! Lower case m, exclamation point. In a way, this very particular use of punctuation could be said to demonstrate a microcosm of the entire film – the dramatic slash of that exclamation speaks to the truly startling nature of the film, while that (pointless) lower-case m has the whiff of wilful self-indulgence.

The film takes place in a beautiful old house owned by a famous poet (Javier Bardem) and his wife (Jennifer Lawrence) – none of the characters are given names. Years earlier, the house had burned down in a tragic accident but the poet’s young wife has painstakingly recreated its interior, transforming it into their own little paradise. Their serenity is broken by the arrival of a stranger late one evening. Ed Harris purports to be a retired doctor who has mistaken the abode for a bed and breakfast. Rather than asking the stranger to leave, the poet invites him to stay the night and soon the pair are bonding over a glass of liquor, much to the bemusement of the poet’s wife. The next day, the doctor’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) turns up at the door and soon, the house is home to many uninvited guests, and the paradise created by the poet’s wife begins to unravel.

How exactly it unravels, I can’t really say…but the glossy horror film promised by both the trailer and the first forty minutes of the film bear little relation to the batshit crazy place the film eventually takes us. As a fan of surreal and extreme cinema, I was happy to go with Aronofsky on this journey but I feel that perhaps my enjoyment of the film was a little simpler than he would have intended. My interest was held by the gleeful demolition of narrative expectation rather than the frankly insufferable subtext and undeniable whiff of hubris about the plight of an artistic, brilliant man whose wife cannot possibly understand the creative process.

The wife in question is excellent in her role. Lawrence begins the film with an almost beatifically benign expression and gradually descends into panic and rage. Throughout, the camera follows her face at close quarters and the effect is mesmerising. Bardem has an unknowable quality that suits the tumbling confusion of the narrative, while it’s great to see Michelle Pfeiffer back on the screen in a turn that is brilliantly scabrous. Despite this stellar (mainstream) cast, this is a film that will divide audiences. It goes to places that are unexpected and grotesque in the extreme; so much so that much of Aronofsky’s intentions are mostly lost amidst the scrum. I enjoyed the film as a bravura piece of filmmaking but I can’t say I’ll be rushing to see it again. You, dear reader, will have to decide for yourselves.

- Linda O’Brien