Mother! Breaking the Rules of Traditional Cinematic Storytelling

Darren Aronofsky’s latest filmmaking endeavor is more biblical than it is cinematic, because of its push for theme over narrative. You might know of Aronofsky’s previous films like Requiem for a Dream, the Wrestler, and his most popular, Black Swan. What his past films have in common is that they are more plot driven. This means that the focus was more on the characters, and the things that happened to them. In contrast, Mother! takes a more allegorical approach, centering itself on a greater meaning, rather than what is laid out before you on screen.

Mother! boasts two leading actors: Jennifer Lawrence (Hunger Games) and Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) who play a couple that lives off the beaten path in their secluded home. We know these characters only by the names “Mother” and “Him.” Mother spends her days renovating their old home, while Him, a writer, attempts to write another successful piece of literature. The two seem to get along like most couples, and while they are clearly in love, Aronofsky makes it evident early on that they are drifting apart.

To make matters even more strenuous on their relationship, a strange couple, played by Ed Harris (Westworld) and Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Returns), show up at their door unannounced. Mother and Him initially welcome the couple into their home, only to slowly realize the mistake they made in being so open with complete strangers.

Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of a distressed wife who finds herself struggling to be heard and loved is impressive. Mother gives so much, but gets so little in return, and I think Lawrence really captured that in her performance. Lawrence is no stranger to this kind of character as she often plays strong, independent women, seeking to liberate herself from whatever holds her down. So even though she was remarkable, it is not something we haven’t seen from Lawrence before.

There was another character in this film that you might not think about. There was a certain dynamic to this character that supported the tone and feeling to the film: the house. That’s right… I said the house. My hat is off to Philip Messina, the film’s set designer, who created an environment that amplified the urgency of Lawrence’s character. The floor plan was masterfully orchestrated and shows the fruit that can come from the collaboration between the director and those working under them.

As for the movie itself, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I saw it as a wonderful allegory for misinformed Christianity, climate change, women’s rights, and even humanity itself. The great thing about this movie is that in its ambiguity there are so many ways an audience can interpret it. There really isn’t a definitive answer for anything, and that is what Aronofsky was attempting to get at—a film that had a heart, but not necessarily any features to speak of.

This might be a reason for you not to see this film, as it weighs more on the figurative, but I think there is something to be gained from watching it. Mother! might not be scary in the conventional way you think of, but it is definitely scary. It is uncomfortable to watch—and it should be— as it reflects a humanity that might be a little exaggerated, but isn’t too far off from reality.

My rating? 7.5 of 10

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