Mother! movie review: Nuanced drama that engages both mind and heart equally

Published Oct 13, 2017, 2:13 am IST
Updated Oct 14, 2017, 9:03 pm IST
Director Darren Aronofsky makes his most courageous film yet, and the results are striking.
Mother! was first screened at the prestigious 74th Venice International Film Festival.
 Mother! was first screened at the prestigious 74th Venice International Film Festival.

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Kristen Wiig


Darren Aronofsky's latest film Mother! is a true epitome of the phrase ‘it’s not for everyone’. The kind of divisive opinions this film garnered through its early screenings were both interesting as well as confusing.

Mother! is a deceptively simple film in terms of set-up. The film revolves around a married couple- Jennifer Lawrence, who is identified only as ‘mother’ and her much older husband, a poet (Javier Bardem) as ‘him,' suffering from a severe writer's block. They live in a huge countryside Victorian house at a remote place. Their privacy gets intruded by unsolicited guests, an older couple (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer). Soon, things turn bizarre when more and more people start showing up abruptly in their house.

It would be wrong to reveal more about the plot of Mother! except to note that what begins as quite a familiar territory later gets wickedly transformed into something absolutely unexpected. To be fair, Aronofsky hints at this in the very opening shot of the film.

Jennifer Lawrenece and Javier Bardem in the still from Mother!Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem in a still from Mother!

The trailer designed for Mother! is probably a strategic marketing gambit by the studio to attract cine-goers with a horror element. The fact is, this is not a downright horror or home invasion thriller but a solid building up on those motifs that propel into an adventitious drama.

Mother! is an audacious allegory for climate change. Apart from many tiny details stuffed into the narrative, the film itself is a giant metaphor (No, that's not a spoiler as Aronofsky himself has addressed about it in his interviews). Once you grasp that idea, you are left wondering just how far Aronofsky will go with it. So, this is a context you should keep in mind for a broader sense of understanding of the movie.

For the initial half an hour, Mother! felt to be similar to Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Crimson Peak’ or Roman Polanski’s classic ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ but Aronofsky’s ambitions are far bigger and unusual, even by the standards of his own previous movie ‘Black Swan.’ Working with his regular adroit cinematographer Matthew Libatique, Aronofsky shoots the film with a noteworthy degree of close-up. We are constantly adjacent to Lawrence and Bardem for most of the film, which induces the intended claustrophobia whilst letting the viewer stay close to Lawrence to understand her state of mind, emphatically. Aronofsky creates an uncanny world where there is a house with a dying heart, a peculiar blood spot on the floor and the characters themselves. The strangeness of the film proceeds to one of the most mind-numbing climaxes in recent memory.

Mother! is kind of a film that feels like it was purposefully made to be divisive. Mother! is a kind of a film that feels like it was purposefully made to be divisive.

Jennifer Lawrence gives a bravura performance. She takes the film to another level with her intense act. Javier Bardem as the egomaniacal husband is excellent. Ed Harris is good as usual. Michelle Pfeiffer is fantastic with her glamorous, arcane character. She looks gorgeous and nearly walks away with every scene she’s in.

In the end, Mother! is a well-acted, challenging and thought-provoking film. If the sole purpose of art is to evoke a strong emotional response, then Mother! is a masterpiece. It articulates something vital and makes us think, though it might not please all who see it.