Mother! opens in a beautifully expansive Victorian, a fixer that looks to be located smack in the middle of nowhere. It’s made apparent that this home has survived a devastating fire. Today, it's being restored by Mother (Jennifer Lawrence). She's never referred to by name in the movie, no one is, so I'll call her The Wife (TW). TW is literally re-plastering walls in this enormous place by hand. She's painting and decorating, nesting and investing. She's married to The Poet (Javier Bardem), a famous, older man who is experiencing a serious bout of writer's block. While she works on the house, he stares at a pad of paper and curses existence. Together they live in this house alone.
One day, the couple hears an unexpected knock at the door. Confused because they literally live in the middle of nowhere, they make their way to the door. The Visitor (Ed Harris) radiates creepiness from the moment he appears. He claims to have mistaken the couple's gorgeous Victorian for a bed & breakfast but ultimately, he confesses to being a huge fan of The Poet. The Poet (TP) has an ego the size of Jupiter, so he invites his dying (and creepy) fan to stay the night. To everyone's surprise, The Visitor (TV) lights up a cigarette without asking and unbeknownst to anyone, invites his wife to join him for the duration of his stay. All the while, TW is freaking out because her husband keeps letting strangers into their home. To make matters worse, the strangers take all kinds of liberties with the home while simultaneously taking advantage of their host's hospitality. Michelle Pfeiffer plays TV’s wife, I'll call her Other Wife (OW). OW is a passive aggressive smorgasbord of cattiness and she’s only there a short while before the couple’s two adult sons--a pair of ill-tempered brats--show up. TW has no idea what the hell is going on but her husband appears to have bonded with every last one of them. He refuses his wife’s pleas to kick anyone out of their home. This is when the movie makes a hard left into Bizarro World and never looks back. Mother!, it seems, is about several things all at once. Darren Aronofsky (Director) tackles ego, sacrifice, love, narcissism, religion and nature among other themes. It’s a lot to take in especially when you remember that, in addition to all that, this is a horror movie.
I know it’s cool to hate on this movie right now, but I can’t. I liked it. By the middle of the movie I was overwhelmed with anxiety and that Rosemary’s Baby vibe. The frenetic destruction, the dread and tension build, all of it made for a disturbing experience. That’s not to say the violence depicted was disturbing, it was extreme but the overall mood of the film is where the real unease resides. With that said, I’m still not entirely sure what this movie is about. I was able to follow the story that was unfolding on screen, but somewhere along the way it was made blatantly obvious that what was happening on screen was allegorical and likely on multiple levels. I read plenty of reviews, some positive and some negative, but I’m not sure I really agree with any one critic’s analysis of the film. Yep, mother! is one of those movies. That should be all you need to know to decide if it’s worth watching. Aronofsky’s going to throw everything he’s got at you, some of it will be breathtaking, some of it will be repulsive and some of it will be a pile of question marks. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to sort the bulk of that out on your own.
Mother! is obscure in some spots, obvious in others and sometimes it’s flat out ludicrous. It’s an intense ride. Bardem, as always, makes for a captivating and cunning bad guy. Lawrence delivers, but her quiet performance takes a second to adjust to. Harris and Pfeiffer both come in strong and their performances are what keep the pace moving in the first half of the movie. To put it plainly, this is a weird movie. You’re going to have questions when you’re done. If you prefer a traditional horror story, this isn’t going to do it for you. If you’re open to Aronofsky poking at your brain and trying to scare you through the use of light, sound, story and color then give it a go. Embrace that uncomfortable inkling.