The marketing for Mother!, Darren Aronofsky’s latest film, has been purposefully nebulous. Commercials have been little more than brief flickers of scenes accompanied by a creepy, anxiety-inducing score. The extensive reading material sent to critics before the screening gave folks a better idea of what to expect by emphasizing the horror and the creative background of the film’s storyline. Aronofsky revealed that, instead of letting his film simmer for years, as he had done with other projects, cameras were rolling within a year of his completion the screenplay’s rough draft. Coming from the mind behind some fascinatingly different films (2010’s disturbing and beautiful Black Swan, and 2000’s Requiem for a Dream come to mind), this is exciting and intriguing news.
All the right pieces are there: the set, the cast, the story, and the allegory. The film centers around mother (Jennifer Lawrence) and Him (Javier Bardem) (punctuation Aronofsky’s), a couple living in a freshly rebuilt home that had burned down in a fire. He is a writer, and she is his pleasantly placating wife—while he struggles and fails to find inspiration, she devotes herself entirely to repairing the house and creating “a paradise.” Their existence is shaken to the core with the arrival of a man (Ed Harris) and his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), to whom He extends an offer to stay indefinitely. From there, tensions rise, and Mother becomes increasingly more agitated in an attempt to maintain the façade of happiness in her home, despite her husband’s impositions and continuing neglect of her needs.
The film is, above all, meant to be an expression, meant to evoke emotions in its viewers, and it does succeed. It accurately portrays the struggles of a one-sided relationship, where one party gives and gives and receives nothing; the struggle to build up someone else through self-sacrifice; the frustration of attempting to deal with external problems and distractions that are believed to be temporary; and the false sense of security from putting a band-aid over a proverbial bullet-hole and considering it healed. It successfully elicits the feelings that it wants to, and yet…there is something missing in the execution.
Aronofsky constructs a beautiful parallel between a romantic relationship and a home, but he clobbers his viewers incessantly with metaphors to drive his point home. During the climactic buildup of the film, he veers into pure chaos territory—both intentionally and unintentionally. He’s already made his point, and grotesquely at that, but he adds about fifteen extra minutes to the film’s duration with unnecessary clutter and a surprising lack of subtlety. Unfortunately, this ultimately detracts from the impact of the film’s haunting, heartbreaking ending.
Aronofsky is an unquestionably imaginative, artful filmmaker, and the care and time that he puts into his craft comes through in the final product. Mother! Is beautifully made, wonderfully acted, and generally interesting to watch. It loses its focus and its grip along the way, however, and though it does tie itself up in the end, a bit more time in the proverbial Aronofsky crock-pot might have taken care of any incongruities and introduced a bit more subtlety to the storytelling.
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- Released: 2017
- Rating: R
- Review: The marketing for Mother!, Darren Aronofsky’s latest film, has been purposefully nebulous. Commercials have been little more than brief flickers of scenes accompanied by a creepy, anxiety-inducing score. The extensive reading material sent to critics befor… (more)