“You give, and you give, and you give. It’s just never enough….”
The most divisive film in 2017 caps an unbelievable year for horror.
Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem portray a loving couple who live in an isolated cottage in the woods. One day Ed Harris arrives and their idyllic existence is called into question.
I spent most of this film trying to figure out if it was worthwhile and what the message was but I was too busy attempting to get a handle on what the fuck was going on. At times I thought Mother! was an allegory about the price of being an artist, at other times it seemed to be an extended metaphor about the anxiety of bringing a child into such an uncertain world, it could also be perceived as a comment on the cyclic nature of abuse or even a criticism of the fragility of the male ego. In the end I’m probably way off on all of it and frankly, Mother! is not a film I wish to spend too much time thinking about*.
I have described horror films as nasty before, never as a compliment, but Mother! actually goes way beyond that. It is downright cruel. None of this makes Darren Aronofsky’s latest a bad film of course but it does make it difficult to sit through. I can’t recall ever feeling as uncomfortable or troubled watching a film before.
Another word that is thrown around a lot in horror film reviews is ‘nightmarish’. It must be said however that Mother! is genuinely a waking nightmare from start to finish. Aronofsky captures the blind, bewildering panic of a nightmare perfectly and having the story unfold through the eyes of the Mother (Jennifer Lawrence – none of the characters are named) allows the feeling of dread to linger and accumulate before finally exploding into what is surely one of the most upsetting conclusions ever committed to film.
This film is beautifully shot, artfully made and features some incredible acting. Jennifer Lawrence is as vulnerable as we have ever seen her and Javier Bardem matches her with a turn that is as sinister as it is gentle. I said earlier that the demented horror aspects of Mother! did not necessarily make it a bad film. Well, a few great performances and attractive cinematography don’t necessarily make it a good film either. I suppose what makes it a success is that it is sure to force a strong emotional reaction from anyone who watches it. If art is expressing your emotions through your passion then Mother! is one of the finest examples of that I have ever seen. If good cinema is something to be enjoyed however, this film can lay no claim to that. A lot of people will hate it, but everyone should watch it. This is quite simply as powerful and visceral as cinema gets.
*Having read up about Mother! it is clear that the film is mainly a retelling of the Genesis myth with Jennifer Lawrence’s Mother representing Mother Nature and Bardem taking the role of God. When you know, it is so obvious but amazingly I never picked up on this subtext whilst watching. Knowing what I now know makes Mother! an even better film.