Now for a review I just could not wait to do. It’s been years, hell I’m talking since “2001: A Space Odyssey”, that a movie so open-ended, artistic, and thought provoking has hit the big screen, but we finally have such a film in “Mother!”. This is the kind of film that is the reason I decided to do these reviews. It’s a film not for the feint of heart or someone going to the theater for cheep, easily digested entertainment. Destined to be misunderstood and under appreciated, “Mother!” is, more than any other film this year, a thinking man’s film and a satisfying assault on the senses that personifies and presents controversial concepts in a way no book, poem, song, or film has ever done before. Before you read my review be aware there MAY be some small spoilers, because that’s how mind-bending this film is. I can’t review it without at least making some sense of it for you, but for some of you this review MAY actually help you enjoy this movie just a little bit more.
“Mother!” is set in a small, secluded home where a married couple, simply named “Him” and “Mother” in the credits and played by Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence, live a secluded life until another older married couple comes into their home. Him is a struggling poet looking for inspiration while Mother has rebuilt a burned down home from scratch to try and satisfy Him’s love for his childhood residence. Over the course of the film the couple’s life is interrupted by the other married couple, that couple’s two sons, and, eventually, a throng of worshipping fans with every action, character, and incident representing concepts of nature, religion and the Bible in a mind bending interpretation of how humans, God, and Mother Nature have failed to mesh in our current reality.
Now that might seem like a spoiler filled summary of the film, but honestly I couldn’t help but put in at least some details to help guide my readers as they enter this film because otherwise you may walk out wondering what the hell you just watched. “Mother!” is a psychological thriller like no other from the mind of director Darren Aronofsky who is a master at tackling the human subconscious, as evidenced by his hits “Black Swan” and “Requiem for a Dream”. Here he tackles the human mind and religion by personifying concepts from the Bible as well as realities from humanity’s history, including ritual sacrifice, war, and God himself, to create an insane and chaotic representation of humanity’s obsession with God, God’s obsession with being loved by humanity, and Mother Nature’s position being stuck in between the two as an unfortunate victim in the grand scheme of things.
Jennifer Lawrence portrays Mother, who becomes the focal point of the entire film as she deals with neglect and the impact outsiders have on her peaceful existence and her devoted work to restore her husband’s childhood home. While her performance starts off a bit wooden, it takes time for the viewer to realize this is literally part of her character as she looks to Him for protection and love the same way earth itself does to God. Lawrence presents herself as a vulnerable woman with an inner strength she only discovers when her world has literally been so destroyed it can no longer be repaired and we feel her confusion and frustration every moment of this psychological mind trip. Javier Bardem portrays Him, an assumed personification of God who is experiencing a difficult writers block in his attempt to “create”. Bardem presents a mix of frustration and ego in his character, as he seems to forsake his wife in favor of the masses who come to love his work. Bardem’s vibrato and calm and collected take on his character creates a man with many layers, a confused, frustrated, and self-centered figure that you can’t help but respect even if you don’t want to.
The camerawork, cinematography, and attention to detail in this story is absolutely amazing as Aronofsky utilizes numerous tricks to create the same confusion and chaos in the viewer’s mind that is probably dominating Mother’s perspective as well. Even when little is happening the use of camera angles and shooting techniques to add to the tension keeps the heart pounding and adds to the confusion and chaos relevant throughout the film. It’s probably one of the most well-shot and artistically designed movies of 2017 and is definitely one of the most artistic of the past 20 or 30 years. Every shot has purpose and while the close-up and motion shots may be a little too much for some to handle, it’s all part of a carefully planned package to capture many different emotions and elements in 2 hours of screen time.
Now before I conclude this review I have to say that I saw “Mother!” without researching it too deeply first, mostly because I wanted to be surprised. When I walked out of the theater I legitimately asked myself “what the hell did I just watch?”, so believe me when I say I can respect the confusion and frustration people may have watching this movie, but I embraced it instead of just writing the film off. Hell I wasn’t even going to give it the grade I am giving it before I took a moment to sit down, think on it and try to appreciate what I just saw. I knew there had to be something to it, and that, to me, was what made this movie so fascinating even when I was completely lost.
As I have said many times, including in this review, movie’s are an art form first and foremost above all else. After I examined the characters and did a little bit of research it all fit in. To me this is a story about humanity, about it’s obsession with religion and its lack of care or concern for Mother Nature and the world around them and is a daring and potentially controversial criticism of religion and God’s supposed concern with people over the world he created. This movie is a difficult watch and it’s not for everyone, but it’s an important film and one that, if nothing else, is quite an experience to take in. There’s very little wrong with this movie once you come to understand that it’s more than just a bunch of jumbled scenes and a seemingly nonsensical plot. There’s a story and a purpose if you take the time to appreciate it.
With that said I’ve honestly never in my life experienced anything like “Mother!”. I’ve seen some mind benders in my day and more than my fair share of jaw dropping “can’t wait to talk about this” movies in the theater, but this was a new one on me. “Mother!” is a thinking man’s movie in a day and age where Hollywood and movies in general are over saturated with easy-to-follow, spoon fed plots with little substance or significance and even where there is real meaning it’s also spoon fed and lacking subtle. That’s not to belittle or insult people who want that kind of entertainment, I enjoy it too (I mean I gave “Wonder Woman” five stars come on, I’m not a complete cynic), but a movie like “Mother!” is a breath of fresh air that reminds us movies are art. They’re an opportunity to present thought provoking interpretations and representations of the clichés, mysteries, and difficulties of life and “Mother!” is a prime example of what greatness can come from someone who truly dedicates themselves to their work and forces the audience to wonder and contemplate what exactly they are trying to say. To use a cliche of my own, “Mother!” may not be the movie America or the world wants right now, but this is the film this world deserves and needs as hard as it is to watch and understand. It’s a striking and well-crafted criticism of many aspects of humanity that will no doubt go under appreciated…but not by me.