Dir/Writer: Darron Aronofsky | Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson | 120′ | DRAMA
Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer star in Darren Aronofsky’s highly anticipated psychological thriller about a couple threatened by the arrival of uninvited guests. MOTHER! is best described as a melodrama that portrays the existential angst of a young woman as she tries to build a home and tend to the obsessively humourless needs her ego-driven writer/husband in their precious early days of their marriage. Beset by anxiety about getting pregnant and pleasing her partner (Javier Bardem) in bed, she runs herself into the ground pandering to his quirky demands which become increasingly unbearable when he invites a dying and neurotic man – and gradually – his extended family into their home who they rapidly outstay their welcome with their own demands in this nightmarish scenario.
This, in a nutshell, is the plot – which sounds bad enough – but the execution is even more inbearable for both Jennifer’s Lawrence’s character, simply called ‘the mother’, and the rest of us. MOTHER! spews out from Lawrence’s POV like a free-flowing torrent of endless sewerage effluent: we are forced to endure her partner/husband Javier Bardem’s petulant posturing, then those of his guest in the shape of Ed Harris’ surgeon, who spends his time smoking, vomiting and talking about his terminal illness, and is soon joined by his snippy wife Michelle Pfeiffer who adds to the mother’s general feelings of unease with her patronising comments and bitchy jibes. Soon more characters join the fray. DP Matthew Libatique’s camera is like a voyeur scanning proceedings from above, and prowling the rooms where bloody stains (putatively representing an aborted foetus) seem to seep from every crack and cranny, with repetitive views into the lavatory basin. Mother! Lacks the rich texture and arthouse credentials of Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby but it feels similar in tone, although more irritating than anxiety-provoking. Entertaining it is not, but it loosely does the job of conveying discomfort: thus achieving its goal of inducing general misery to Lawrence’s character and the audience. It’s a toxic and offensive film to watch, which will no doubt please the horror crowd. So do go and be irritated- you have been warned. MT
Darren Aronofsky was born in Brooklyn and studied live-action and animated film at Harvard. His feature films include Pi (98) and Noah (14), and the Festival selections Requiem for a Dream(00), The Fountain (06), The Wrestler (08), and Black Swan (10). mother! (17) is his latest film.
REVIEWED AT VENICE FILM FESTIVAL | ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 15 SEPTEMBER 2017