I had to reflect on this one for awhile.
The film mother! is the new film by Darren Aronofsky, who previously gave us Requiem for a Dream, Noah, The Wrestler and Black Swan, and it is absolutely an artsy film that requires you to think about what it is saying. Nothing is what it seems and everything, and I do mean everything, is a metaphor for something.
Jennifer Lawrence is a woman married to Javier Bardem, a poet, and they are livingin a house in the middle of nowhere that we find out was Berdem’s home that had previously been damaged in a fire. Lawrence is repairing it while the poet Bardem is trying to resume his writing. Soon, a man arrives, played by Ed Harris, followed by his wife, Michelle Pfeiffer, who bring chaos into the serene utopia that is the home of the couple.
I knew almost nothing about this film going in. I did see the trailers, but they did not stick with me, so I was uncertain of what the film was meant to be. I had heard that it was a horror/thriller type of film. After seeing it….
It is not a horror/thriller.
In fact, the film is a full out allegory.
At this point it is difficult to talk about the film without spoiling it, so…
One of the main metaphor running through the film is that Javier Bardem is God and Jennifer Lawrence is Gaia, Mother Earth. These characters do not have actual names in the film which, oddly enough, I did not even realize until the end credits. The religious metaphor is very heavy handed, including the arrival of Harris and Pfeiffer, aka Adam and Eve, into the idyllic home (aka Eden) to cause trouble. We even get a Cain and Abel pair as their sons show up (real life brothers Brian and Domhnall Gleeson play them).
Later still we get a whole Baby Jesus metaphor that is about as disturbing as it can possibly be. Let’s just say that you’ll never look at Communion the same way again.
However, the God-Earth metaphor was not the only one that was showing its head in mother! because there were many others as well. To say that metaphors were being mixed would not be too broad of a statement.
Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky reportedly gave out a statement prior to critic screenings of the film trying to lay the groundwork for the film. He spoke about how the film is dark and is a response to the horrible things going on in the world and how he wrote this in five days. I expect fully that there will be a lot of people who absolutely hate this movie. I think there are those who will really appreciate the artistic nature of the work Aronofsky pulled off here. I don’t think I am going out on a limb stating that this film will be divisive. Aronofsky knew it would be divisive, because he specifically commented on it.
Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem are really good in the film, especially Lawrence, who has so much put upon her throughout the film. If you do not catch the Biblical reference, it will seem as if Lawrence is caught in an abusive relationship.
Which brings up another point. I believe that it is absolutely possible that someone else could watch mother! and read something completely different into the allegory than the Biblical one. You could look on this as a commentary on famous people and the lives that they live. Or it could be how some people are trapped and cannot escape from certain situations. The subjective nature of the symbolic storytelling is another reason why this film required serious reflection for me before I wrote this review.
(By the way, as an English teacher, I am having a heck of a hard time typing the title of this movie without a capital letter— mother!. )
There is no doubt that this movie will spurn a series of debates and discussions about exactly what it is. It is an amazingly well made film with great performances. The story itself may stick with you, upset you, or anger you. I’m not even sure how I can grade this because the film is challenging. I respect the use of allegory in this film, but I feel as if they overused the metaphors too much. There are many disturbing images and the film does feel too long.
It might be one to have to see a second time to really see what the film is saying, but it feels as if there are too many messages here.