Film critic Luis Freijo weighs in on Darren Aronofsky’s controversial art-film Mother!
Thank God that there are some creators like Darren Aronofsky left. In the current film outlook, where only endless franchises, Marvel adaptations or unnecessary remakes get publicity and viewers, the appearance of Mother!, with all its defects and imperfections, is a very needed breath of fresh air. I would say that it’s mandatory to watch Mother! knowing nothing about the plot but, in truth, there is no plot at all. Aronofsky’s film is not a normal story. It’s pure symbolism, raw metaphor, a dreamlike fable that, rather than an accurate portrait of psychological characters, aims to reach universal truth. An ambitious goal, you might think. But that´s exactly what’s missing from our screens these days: ambition.
The main subject of this savage and uncomfortable crescendo is the fragility of love ties. A perfect and hopeful relationship (represented in the movie by that ambiguous house) can burn to ashes in just a snap of the fingers, specially when one of the members of the couple is immersed in his own ego and experiments an endless cycle of love destruction. Imposibility of healthy boundaries? Yes, and in an apocalyptic way.
Perhaps, that’s the main defect of the film: it’s over the top. Watching Mother! is an exhausting experience because Aronofsky takes us to Dantesque, macabre, bizarre and, probably, unjustified depths. He overdoes the last third of the film in a manner that might make difficult the aprehension of the final meaning: everyday nature can be broken in an instant, even when the couple is at its best moment of happiness. The battle, the strange cult and the obscene cannibalistic scene is just taking that idea way too far.
However, the director redeems himself of this excesses by offering a magnificent style excercise. In addition to powerful images (the house and it’s surroundings, the crystal, the fire) and daring visual ideas (the blood spilling through the floor, the contrast between the celebration dinner and what happens afterwards), Aronofsky makes an aesthetic bet, and wins. That ruthless camera stuck to Jennifer Lawrence´s back of the neck allows us to adopt her point of view, thus immersing ourselves in her terrified perspective.
Lawrence proves, once again, her tremendous value as an actress. The movie centres around (and is subject to) her sensitive, subtle and omnipresent performance. Some situations reach such a high degree of ridicule and uneasiness that it was very possible to overact. Fortunately for Mother!, she does not and is perfect in every second. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer might be nominated this year to the Oscars in the supporting actor categories because they are excellent in the role of the disruptive couple. Javier Bardem also composes a very sinister character, one of his specialities, and could very well pronounce that verse that Shelley wrote: “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”. And judging from Mother! it seems that they could apply to Darren Aronofsky as well.
VERDICT: If it’s just entertainment you’re looking for, this is not your movie. However, it’s a personal and radical work, a must-see work for film lovers who will not be indifferent to it.