BY DANIEL RAKOWER AND DARIAN SABLON
Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! is a work of pure metaphor. It is not a film properly surmised by trailers or marketing, only by the thoughtful and heated discussions of the audience leaving the theater right before one’s own showing.
Mother! is by far one of the most bizarre films that I’ve seen and it could easily be said that the majority of audiences will share that sentiment. Because the film is not entirely consistent with the real world, it allows audiences to experience emotion in a way very few would in real life. The absolute dread this film builds in its first two acts, using the strange, almost inhuman actions of its characters, as well as the fact that literally none of them have names, works to put the viewer in a state of unease before the film decides to truly destroy any semblance of reality and sanity. While a majority of the filmgoing audience found this to be off- putting, there is a certain sense of a complete lack of apology to it that can be described as glorious. It is admirable for completely staying within the vision of the director, not budging for the sake of mass appeal, audience comfort, or convenience of his actors. These actors, Jennifer Lawrence as the titular Mother, and Javier Bardem as “Him”, especially, gave amazing, heart wrenching and completely surreal performances that work to give the movie a more grounded sense, even though the events of the movie become more twisted and surreal.
While Mother! was definitely a thought provoking psychological odyssey, it is certainly not for everyone. The film does have moments that can prove to be disturbing to some of even the most hardened filmgoers. So if, one has a weak stomach, perhaps hold off on seeing Mother! As a final note, in my seventeen year long moviegoing experience, I have never started a conversation with a complete stranger about the themes and imagery of a movie right after seeing it. After seeing Mother!, I can gladly say that’s no longer the case.
Movies, just like any other art form, should never be completely literal. Often times the hidden meanings behind certain dialogue or visuals can give viewers an extra layer of enjoyment and should be done more. However, like anything else, too much of a good thing is bad for everyone. For a great example of this look no further than the most recent installment by Darren Aronofsky, Mother! A movie that just feels like a confusing mess of metaphors and twisted storylines, Mother! is exactly how a movie that wants to be more than just a clean cut film should not be done. At first, Mother! seems to be like any other thriller movie. This is but a facade as Mother! takes a major U-turn into crazy town, with a complicated plot and insane moments that will make anyone squirm in their seat. Now, plot isn’t the be all for all in film, but it is undeniably a big part. If the plot makes no sense, the film will suffer, as Mother! did.
This isn’t to say that Mother! has no redeeming qualities. Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence were great in their roles as the unnamed poet and Mother respectively. Their chemistry was an obvious benefit to the film experience, in addition to the amazing cinematography and interesting characters. However, none of that can realistically salvage what a really unenjoyable movie this was to experience.
This isn’t to say that movies with less than clean plots are all bad to watch. Great examples of the contrary include Memento, Being John Malkovich and Predestination to mention a few. But these films were able to balance complicated themes and plots effectively, resulting in great movie experiences. Mother! simply wasn’t that.
Featured image courtesy of Paramount Pictures Mother! franchise