MOTHER! gets 7/10 Paradise lost

Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris

7/10

Few films have as much mystery around them as Mother! The latest work from director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, Requiem For A Dream), and starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, arrived on our screens without a great deal of information as to what it is actually about. That locked box mystery is not merely a clever marketing gimmick but rather an integral part of the experience of the film. The result is something rich, complex, and certainly not for everyone.

In that spirit, it’s probably best to just give the bare bones of a plot here, and they are very sparse. After rebuilding from a tragedy, a couple’s (Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem) idyllic home life is disrupted when a mysterious man (Ed Harris) visits.

That’s it, that’s all, but what grows out of it is surprising.

In the simplest possible terms, Mother! is fucking nuts. Seriously, just plain fucking nuts.

Aronofsky has never been a stranger to controversial cinema, but here he creates something that is certainly going to divide audiences, and put many viewers at arm’s length. Mother! is a slow boil psychological horror that gradually builds up pressure, till exploding into something that is absolutely ludicrous in its last twenty minutes. It is classic arthouse cinema, reliant on character, a rich visual style and in this case a strong sense of biblical metaphor woven throughout the narrative. Engage with that allegory, have the patience to follow that slow build, and the understanding to see what themes Aronofsky is exploring, and there is a lot here on offer. If not, Mother! is going to erect a wall impenetrable symbolism that will confuse and bewilder.

It is also a film that is reliant on that strong sense of mystery in its first viewing. There is a joy in unlocking its deeply coded meaning, and discovering its odd structure. Yet there is also a richer theme at play here, as Aronofsky says lot about the nature of creativity and the divine. These are common themes throughout the director’s oeuvre, but are presented here in their most concentrated form, ending up on some rather surprising ground.

Lawrence and Bardem do solid work, reaching beyond their characters to touch on universal archetypes that the director is wanting to explore. However Michelle Pfeiffer produces the best performance in this rather talent crowded piece, by turning a small but crucial role into something that is laden with meaning and menace.

Certainly not a crowd pleaser, but rather a controversial and somewhat esoteric piece that will find both critics and ardents. Mother! is a unique and genuine cinematic experience, for both good and ill.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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