CINEMASCOPE: MUM’S THE WORDArchive
As a big fan of Darren Aronofsky’s psychologically stirring work like Pi (1998), Requiem for a Dream (2000) and Black Swan (2010), I walked into Mother! with a sneaking suspicion that it was going to be more than what the trailers had portrayed — a by-the-numbers haunted house film. But what I wasn’t expecting was a film that is almost nothing like what the trailers depicted.
By the time Mother! drew to a close at the end of its nearly two-hour runtime I could see why Paramount had played it safe and marketed it as a regular horror film, because there is no other way to sell it without leaving audiences feeling weary. Moreover, I’d go as far as to say that Mother! is a film that isn’t easily classified in any one genre. If you put a gun to my head, I’d define it as a psychological drama loosely based on religious scripture with a heavy dose of symbolism and some elements of horror.
Mother! certainly has viewers divided. On review aggregate websites, the film has scored between the 60 and 70 percentile, though audiences have been far less generous. It’s being called a love it-or-hate it film, and I am going to put myself in the latter camp.
Mother! is a pretentious and heavy-handed cut that takes two hours to say what it could in 30 minutes
I disliked Mother! for the very reasons that certain viewers have loved it — the layers in the narrative. It would be unfair for me to spoil it when Aronofsky himself has gone to great pains with Paramount to keep the plot heavily under wraps, so I’ll try to be as vague as possible, but the names of the characters should help you decipher the plot.
When the film begins we instantly realise that all is not as it seems. The gorgeous cinematography by Matthew Libatique, editing by Andrew Weisblum and direction by Aronofsky create a setting that reminds us of an unsettling dream that we could have sworn was real. Then there is the excellent performance by Jennifer Lawrence (Mother) who also has the demeanour of someone in a fable. When Mother’s husband Him (Javier Bardem), strangely invites Man (Ed Harris), Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and their two violent children Oldest Son (Domhnall Gleeson) and Younger Brother (Brian Gleeson) into the house, and Him behaves very unhuman-like after Mother faces danger, our suspicions are confirmed and we start to look beneath the surface of the film. Here, the film sheds any pretense of realism and dives head-first into the fantastical territory.
Mother! certainly has viewers divided. On review aggregate websites, the film has scored between the 60 and 70 percentile, though audiences have been far less generous. It’s being called a love it-or-hate it film.
Fans of Mother! love it because of the symbolism and the multi-layered story. They enjoyed the commentary on the characters it depicts as well as the observations made on modern-day human behaviour. Your mileage will vary, though I would still encourage readers to watch the film, if only for its attempt at going beyond typical Hollywood fare.
I was fairly bored halfway through and was counting the minutes pass by. For my money, Mother! is a desperate attempt by Aronofsky to craft an intellectual piece of cinema. He is a fine filmmaker but David Lynch he is not.
While I enjoyed Him’s vanity, overall I thought Mother! was a pretentious and heavy-handed cut that took two hours to say what it could in 30 minutes. What’s more, without giving too much away, Aronofsky’s commentary on Mother is dead wrong. It’s almost laughable that the film depicts Mother as being vulnerable and needy, when it’s the other way round.
Published in Dawn, ICON, September 24th, 2017