"Mother!" Review

                                                                                                  Courtesy of Empire Online

Director Darren Aronofsky, who worked on films such as Black Swan and Jackie, has done it again with the production of Mother!, a psychological thriller/horror film released on September 15, 2017. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer, and boasts a current 68% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, film critics have left their mixed reviews on the movie, seeming to either love it or hate it.

The trailer itself is vague, and it is hard to describe what the actual plot of the movie is without giving away too much of the storyline. See the trailer here.

As a disclaimer, I will say that Mother! is not for everyone. I myself love thriller movies, but am not so much of a horror fan. Before deciding to watch the movie, I had read reviews like, “It got very dark towards the end” and “I had to leave the theater because I was so disturbed.” Even Jennifer Lawrence herself spoke in an interview that she had to take breaks from filming to watch “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” because it got too intense. The fact that people needed to leave the theater because they were so moved by the movie both made me anxious and intrigued. What was so disturbing about this movie? Granted Mother! is a R-rated thriller, but I have seen enough R-rated movies to know why something is rated as such.

On Friday the 13th, I finally mustered up the courage to go see this movie. I had heard enough hype, and it was time to finally see it for myself. Little did I know that I would leave the theater, physically shaking from what I had just watched…

[SPOILERS AHEAD!]

The movie starts off with a panoramic view of the main setting: a large Victorian-styled house that seems to have caught fire. A man places a large crystal on a pedestal and smiles to himself. This man is “the poet” and is the husband of Jennifer Lawrence’s character, “the mother”, although the couple does not have any children. None of the characters in this movie are given actual names. Once the poet places the crystal on the pedestal, the house is fixed and is no longer burnt by the fire; this foreshadows the rest of the movie. The married couple live in this large house by themselves, and the house is in a small meadow surrounded by the woods. In other words, the house is in the middle of nowhere. The poet has been suffering from writer’s block, and desperately needs inspiration to create his next piece of work. The mother has taken on the job of remodeling the house by herself.

The couple seems to have a subtly dysfunctional relationship. The poet is more focused on his work than his marriage with the mother, and although the couple sleep in the same bed at night, the mother always wakes up to an empty bed as the poet is already awake and pacing around the house, looking for any type of inspiration for his next piece. The mother shows her devotion to the poet, always looking for him and wanting to be by his side. The poet says things like, “I need to create my next piece because people love it." The mother responds with, “I love all your work” to which he verbally pushes her away with a casual “I know." Every interaction between the couple makes the audience recognize that one person gives more in the relationship than the other, and in turn, the audience starts to feel pity for the mother.

One night, the couple receives a knock on the door. It is an old man, claiming to be a doctor at a nearby hospital who was told the home was a bed-and-breakfast. To the mother’s surprise, the poet offers the doctor to stay the night anyway, and the men chat and drink heavily all night. The next morning, the doctor’s wife arrives at the house and gets herself too comfortable for the mother’s comfort, practically making the house her own. She waltzes in as she pleases, and gives the mother unsolicited advice regarding marriage and wanting children. Soon after the doctor’s wife’s arrival, the doctor’s two sons storm into the house, arguing over logistics in the doctor’s will. The fight escalates so much that one of the sons starts physically beating the other to the point where one ends up dying in the house.

Shortly after the death of one of the sons, the doctor, his wife, and the poet leave the house to carry the son’s body to the hospital, leaving the distraught mother to clean up the son’s blood that has now stained the floorboard of the house. Once they return, the mother furiously tells the poet that she wants their guests to leave, but the poet explains his feelings of sympathy for the elderly couple and tells the mother to give them some time to cope with their loss. Before the mother can agree, many people come for the “celebration of life” for the late son, hosted at the house by the poet and the elderly couple. The mother is both startled and furious that so many people are now barging into her house beyond her control, and is annoyed as they start wandering around into private bedrooms and physically destroying the house. The “celebration” gets so out of hand that a pipe bursts in the house, forcing all the people to flee. Once everyone leaves, the mother takes out her frustration on the poet, claiming that all he cares about is pleasing other people instead of focusing on their relationship.

This is less than half of the “plot” in the movie, and to be honest, I was lost throughout the entire film. I wasn’t sure where the plot of the movie was headed. Yet, I cannot stress enough that the last fifteen minutes of the film were dark and disturbing enough for me to question why I thought seeing this film was a good idea in the first place. I was completely shocked by how the film ended, and so disturbed by how visually overwhelming the last few minutes were that I left the theater not knowing how to process anything that happened. The movie showing had ended around midnight, but when I arrived back home, I was so mentally overwhelmed that I felt I could not sleep after watching the movie and watched an hour of Spongebob to help me go to sleep.

After eventually processing the entire film, I took time to research what the film meant, as the film clearly had a lot of symbolic meaning. Apparently, the movie is a lot more connected to religion than I had anticipated. The poet represents God, the creator of the universe, and the mother is Mother Earth, with the house being the environment. The doctor and his wife represent Adam and Eve, with their sons being Cain and Abel. The film makes the point of Mother Earth wanting to protect the environment, but humanity welcomed by God continues to destroy the planet, causing Mother Earth to be increasingly frustrated by humanity’s actions.

                                                                                                     Courtesy of Indiewire

Would I recommend this movie? I’m not sure if I would. The cinematography and sound aspects of the movie were stunning. The film was shot in a way where the audience was present the entire time, which made me feel slightly uncomfortable with the implication of voyeurism. However, the intensity and darkness of all the disturbing acts in the film have affected me so much that I am not sure I want to see it ever again. In conclusion, if you are truly curious about this movie after reading all this, by all means, please do watch it. However, count me out on re-watching this movie again if it’s released on Netflix.