mother! Review

mother!

mother!

And yes, the lowercase m and exclamation mark are essential according to the pr blurb that accompanies Darren Aronofsky’s new film.

Which tells you everything you need to know about just how pretentious mother! is.

We start off with a beautiful woman waking up to a new day.

Young, blonde and wearing a sheer white slip, our pure as the driven snow heroine leaves the comfort of her bed to find her absent lover.

A great writer of things, the old man in her life is hard at work on his latest masterpiece.

Only he’s not, because he’s got writers block – which may or may not be connected to the horrific house fire he survived that destroyed everything he had.

The only thing he hasn’t been purged of is a beautifully mysterious crystal that he jealously guards from the rest of the world.

Except his new flame, who has lovingly restored the house he used to live in and turned it into a beautiful home for the two of them.

The only problem is she doesn’t appear to be enough stimulation for the old man; so whenever someone not so innocently drops by their house claiming to be lost, the writer gladly welcomes them in and insists that they overstay their welcome.

And when a couple arrive and do just that, things start to get weird.

Before I tell you all the things I hate about mother! – which is a lot – I should also mention that I love Darren Aronofsky films.

The Fountain is one of the most interesting movies I’ve ever seen, and I’ve actually paid to see some of Aronofsky’s other films.

As someone who gets invited to see films, I can think of no higher praise.

But mother! sees Aronofsky jump the shark pretty continuously for about two hours.

The first hour isn’t so bad, even if it does feel like a play starring four famous people doing whatever they want just because they’re Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer.

But when Domhnall Gleeson and his brother turn up to play out their best Cain and Abel routine, things take a turn for the worse.

Whatever tenuous grasp on reality mother! had is slipped, replaced by increasingly random and implausible acts before Aronofsky deploys sickeningly violent scenes designed to shock and provoke.

Which works, if only because I expect far more from an auteur like Aronofsky than such cheap and desperate tricks.

The themes in mother! – namely the inherent narcissism of artists and how women are the true creators out of the sexes – are worthy of exploration, but instead of using a scalpel to dissect these subjects, Aronofsky opts for the sledgehammer.

It’s a big mistake and leaves mother! feeling like the heavy handed mother of all vanity projects, scarcely helped by casting Aronofsky’s current paramour in the lead – even if Lawrence is probably the best thing about the film, run close by Pfeiffer’s stirring cameo.

But instead of following her character’s arc through to its logical conclusion, Pfeiffer is carelessly tossed to one side as Aronofsky cranks up his pretentiousness all the way to eleven for a cynically calculated yet ultimately inconsequential finale.

So if you’re thinking of seeing mother! this weekend, you may want to let life imitate, ah, life and make your excuses.

Jonathan Campbell

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September 2017
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