Quick Critique: mother!

A housewife (Jennifer Lawrence) works hard to get a rundown house back in order while her beloved husband (Javier Bardem) suffers from writer’s block. They face an unexpected guest (Ed Harris), who is a fan of the husband’s work. The guest eventually invites his wife (Michelle Pfieffer) to join them, and despite how rude and cumbersome they are, the housewife is never able to get them to leave.

That’s all of the plot I really want to describe of Mother! (or mother! if you’re feeling haughty). To say this is a movie you have to experience for yourself in order to really get it is an understatement. I cannot do in words how unnerving, uncomfortable, strange, invasive, maddening and ultimately draining this experience made me. And I loved every fucking minute of it.

Mother! is the latest work from ‘Are you uncomfortable yet? I’m poking you in the side while breathing down your neck; tell me when you’re feeling uncomfortable’ maverick Darren Aronofsky, who combines his fascination of religious idolatry (Pi, The Fountain, Noah) with his ability to make the audience question their own sanity whilst pushing his characters to the deep end (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan, The Wrestler to an extent). He is a true auteur, pondering how people find meaning in their lives and tend to go searching in radically poisonous and self-destructive avenues. His latest feature takes a rather overtly religious metaphor, exploring ideas of devotion, patriarchy, our predilections to tradition and the destructive nature of idolatry. What results is a dizzying, spellbinding masterpiece, easy to break down but hard to exactly figure out

And oh man, does it break it down close! A lot of the cinematography is close-ups right in Jennifer Lawrence’s face, and whilst your desire to see her nostril hairs may turn you off this approach, it does bring you right into her level of claustrophobic discomfort. Especially when more people start arriving at her house. Trust me, if you’ve ever felt trapped in a social situation in your own home, a venue in which you are supposed to feel protected and at ease, this will crank your anxiety up to 90…billion. Yeah. If you have issues with people invading your personal space, oh man does this film really want to fuck with you!

The kinetic and very naturalistic cinematography really sets the tone as well. What starts off as a very scenic and beautiful local very quickly turns into the stuff of nightmares. Again, it’s hard to describe without you having seen the damn thing yourself-this is one of the few movies I can think of that perfectly encapsulates being in a waking nightmare. Because the narrative is built on metaphor, it just continues to glide with its own logic, and the excellent cast with standout performances from Lawrence, Bardem, Harris and a scene stealing Pfieffer effortlessly dance along to the beat of this story’s really weird but tantalising drum.

If you hated mother!, then obviously we disagree. I respect other’s opinions, and I can totally see why people would be turned off this movie, but I was utterly enraptured from the opening image to the final one. These are the kind of experiences I drag myself to the cinema for; engaging, creepy, nauseating, annoying, exasperating, sweet, jarring, funny, devastating, terrifying, maddening, anxious-ridden, exhausting, and every emotion deliberately being called. This is easily one of the highlights of 2017 for me, and I hope it finds it appreciating audience once the anti-hype dies down.

Sweet dreams, everyone…

10/10

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