I find myself in a difficult position with Darren Arronofsky's latest film, mother!. This movie is made for a very select few people; the types of people that don't mind being uncomfortable and on-edge for most of the run-time and are then rewarded at the end by an extended bat-sh*t sequence that bludgeons you over the head countless times with acts of utter insanity. I found the film to be pretty great, but I feel like 90% of moviegoers are going to puke this film out like vomit after a heavy night of drinking.
mother! follows a married couple referred to as "Mother" and "Him" (Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem) who live in a secluded house surrounded by trees. When "Him" starts to invite strangers into their house, "Mother" becomes increasingly distressed. Things hit a fever pitch when "Him", who is a famous poet, can't seem to say no to his rabid fans. (Sorry, it's very hard to explain the premise of this film without giving anything away.)
It's very easy to criticize this film for biting off more than it can chew and generally coming off as pretentious, but there's such a strong message being conveyed that it's hard to really cut it down too much. By the time it ends, mother! clearly positions itself a take-down of organized, radical religion and where other films try to tip-toe around the subject, this one barrels head-on with reckless abandon, maybe even going too far at times.
mother! goes to some very disturbing places, and it's best if you go into this film expecting the unexpected. There's so much more to this film than the trailers suggest; it's marketed as a thriller/horror film when it's actually more of an art-house depiction of a woman's figurative (and in some ways literal) descent into hell. For someone that watches a lot of movies and looks out for films that do something different, this was refreshing, but for people that just want to be pleased, it's highly likely to just infuriate.
The actors help sell this bleak vision successfully. Jennifer Lawrence is in top form here playing the vulnerable "Mother". I believed her increasing distress with the events transpiring around her. Javier Barden also does a fantastic job as "Him", in a role that requires duality and depth. Veteran actors Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer also bring their A-game as a couple that "Him" invites in.
Aesthetically, mother! can't be faulted. Darren Arronofsky shoots this film perfectly. There's so much creative techniques on display and the film is rife with creative sequences that are completely unique and never-before-seen. There's also no score, which surprisingly, adds to the general sense of nervous tension that the film employs.
While I didn't exactly enjoy my time with mother! and I didn't entirely agree with its message, I admired the craft and was consistently intrigued by just how far Arronofsky was willing to travel down the rabbit hole. For this reviewer, mother! was an admirable effort and a ride worth taking, even if it's not for everyone.