How does one even begin to review a film like Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, a complete mind fuck of an experience? Well, you’d probably start by cursing like I did, you might attempt to put together coherent thoughts about it like I will, or you could just stew on the film (which you should) because after being put through the ringer you deserve time to comprehend the craziness you just witnessed.
mother! is a film that is best enjoyed without knowing anything about the film so if you haven’t seen it, click out of this review and go see the film, then come back. For those of you who don’t mind some minor table setting, I shall give you some. Jennifer Lawrence plays the wife of Him (Javier Bardem), a writer who is struggling to create in the newly built paradise that Lawrence’s character has been working on for a while. They seem to be living an isolated existence until they are visited by one stranger and from then one the film jsut goes and descends and twists…
Even in giving you that much I had to keep some things close to the vest. But I will say that this film is not as simple as what was outlined. By the end of the film I was almost as blown away by the film as I was that Darren somehow successfully convinced a major studio to give him the money to make this film. Visually, Aronfsky and DP Matthew Libatique craft something that’s incredibly intimate even when the story is going off the rails. Their use of long takes and closeups on their very great actors gives the tale a sense of existential dread. You know things will probably get bad and they want you right there with these characters when they do.
Speaking of, Jennifer Lawrence has been much maligned these days for her choices in roles and actions, but she gives one of the finest performances of the year in mother! Much was made of the age difference (and they do reference it in the film fyi) but we shouldn’t be shocked that an Oscar caliber actress overcame our issues. Armed with being shot in close up for about 75%, Lawrence is so locked in that every facial tic, every glance, the simplest movement she makes provides the canvas for us to go on an extreme emotional journey. It’s really a brilliant performance, even when the script sometimes undermines the character.
What I think I appreciated the most about this film was the sheer gall of it, but also that with the filmmaking team attached, the beauty and simplicity of the story.