The art of falling apart: 'Mother!' is an unraveling descent into madness

Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem star in Darren Aronofsky's "Mother!" (Photo: Paramount Pictures) 

3.5 out of 5 Stars
Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris
Genre: Horror, Mystery
Rated: R for strong disturbing violent content, some sexuality, nudity and language

Synopsis: A young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) is married to an older, famous poet (Javier Bardem) who is suffering from writer’s block. The simplicity of their lives is disrupted when a stranger (Ed Harris) appears on their doorstep.

Review: Director Darren Aronofsky has been a divisive force in Hollywood for the majority of his career. “Mother!” is likely to be his most hotly debated release. It is a film that is wide open to personal interpretation, the sort of movie that begs to be watched repeatedly. The problem there being that I’m not sure that I have the endurance to sit through “Mother!” again, let alone revisiting it frequently enough to try and write an intelligent discourse on the allegories that appear to be contained within. Is it a Biblical film? Is it about the relationship and responsibility an artist has with and to his audience?

Many of the critics in the screening I attended found the film to a unredemptive bore. I’m not among them. I was too wrapped up in the ever-present tension, the mania of the narrative and the pervasive selfishness that runs like a flood beneath the action. I wasn’t particularly enjoying myself, but I don’t think that Aronofsky was trying to make the sort of movie that an audience enjoys. “Mother!” is more of an experience. An experience that is essentially watching Jennifer Lawrence’s character mentally unravel as she is forced to endure all kinds of physical and mental abuse. It’s not nearly as hateful as a Gaspar Noé film, but there are moments when it feels like Aronofsky is channeling his inner Lars von Trier.

The story is simple. Woman and man live in remote home. Woman is renovating the home after a fire nearly destroyed it. Man is supposed to be writing, but can’t find the inspiration. Then, for initially unknown reasons, another man arrives to disrupt the routine. The other man is allowed to be a guest. Then more people arrive. They too are welcomed as guests. These guests ignore any rule placed upon them and bit by bit begin to take over the home. This drives the woman to the past the point of breaking. Violence happens; this is vicious cinema. The allegories pile up as more and more religious imagery fills the screen. Then all hell breaks loose. Lather, rinse and repeat.

Jennifer Lawrence is great, as are Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and the long lost Michelle Pfeiffer who, thankfully, returns after a five year absence.

One thing is certain, "Mother!" is undeniably different.

Still, proceed with caution.

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