The new thriller mother! (officially, the title is not capitalized) is a film designed to upset and alter any expectations you may have before the lights go down.
It’s a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence that will not please fans of her previous work. In fact, it will infuriate them. It will make them want to burn down the theater when the movie is over. I suspect the film’s innovative director Darren Aronofsky knows this and is secretly taking pride in turning the actress’ image inside out. For the most part this surreal and sensory experiment works, even if by the film’s end it raises more questions than it answers.
mother! starts to screw with your head from the very beginning, revealing its title in lowercase font with an exclamation point to suggest immediacy. We are then quickly introduced to Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, a married couple who share a large home seemingly out in the middle of nowhere. Their characters are never mentioned by name and are only referred to in the film’s credits as Mother and Him.
He’s a struggling poet and she’s a bored housewife with an onset of baby fever, but when the couple slowly begin to receive outside visitors with ulterior motives and their house literally starts to bleed, the clues start to escalate into what feels like an unofficial remake of Rosemary’s Baby.
Before you jump to conclusions, let me remind you that mother! isn’t interested in playing by genre rules, so while the film’s first half feels like a by-the-numbers supernatural thriller or home invasion movie, it quickly turns into something entirely different that has to be seen to be believed.
I’m not in the habit of filling up film reviews with plot regurgitations, but even if I did try to explain what happens in mother’s! second half, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t believe me anyway. And that is completely fine by me because in a year where we have continued to get the same kinds of movies over and over again, mother! genuinely swings for the fences in a way major studio films rarely do. It forces you to process what you’ve just seen instead of spoon-feeding you the answers.
Darren Aronofsky is no stranger to putting his leading ladies through an intense filmmaking course to achieve maximum results. He most famously pushed Natalie Portman to an Oscar win in Black Swan, and he has recreated that rigorous environment with Jennifer Lawrence here as well. The things she does in mother! are more mentally and physically taxing than anything she has attempted before and almost seem like a blatant middle finger to safe studio films.
For fans of her work who just want to relax with mindless entertainment after a long day of work, definitely skip mother! You will be extremely disappointed and reject a film that isn’t meant to be quickly digested. But for everyone else looking to be challenged, I strongly recommend this aural and visual experience. You’ll have to put in some effort, but the payoff is worthwhile.
mother! is now playing in theaters nationwide.