Darren Aronofsky must be having a “gotcha moment” right now. He cast Jennifer Lawrence, one of the most beloved and popular actresses of her generation, as the central character; kept the details of the film under wraps; made Paramount market it as a psychological horror thriller to bring audience to the theater and then BAM! He delivers a symbolic, unrestrained two hours of cinema that deals with one of the (if not THE) most controversial and sensitive themes ever. Ah, the sheer audacity! It’s quite admirable. But, I keep wondering: Did they really think they could get away with it? It’s an industry where vast majority of the audience accept and celebrate pointless sequels churned out by studios. Again and again and again.
Then comes a director and a studio with a wild, provocative film. How dare they?! Anyway, while pretending to feel bad for the audience who felt cheated and ended up hating the film, I have to say that ‘mother!’ is one of the best movies that I watched this year. It is one of the boldest films that came out from a major Hollywood studio in years. Of course, they paid the price for it. The film is being butchered by the audience and even got a rare F grade from Cinemascore (which is a research firm that evaluates audience reactions before the wide release of a film). Only twelve films have been awarded the F grade by them in the past thirteen years! So, is it that bad? Absolutely NOT! But, why the abysmal ratings? Here we go:
Obviously, MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
‘mother!’, on the surface, is a deeply disturbing, home invasion psychological horror thriller. Inspired by the likes of Luis Bunuel’s surreal drama ‘The Exterminating Angel’, Aronofsky made ‘mother!’ apparently based on a fever dream that he had. The entire film actually feels like one. We anxiously, suspiciously follow Jennifer Lawrence walking around an old creaky house for two hours during which things escalate quickly and go nightmarishly bad.
The film opens with the shot of a burning woman in the midst of a fire. Subsequently, we see Him (Javier Bardem) gleefully placing a crystal on to a stand. The burnt structure that he’s in transforms into a refurbished house. Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) wakes up. She is married to Him and he’s a poet. She occupies herself by redecorating the house while he is trying to write. The house is in a pristine, secluded location surrounded by nature. She seems to have a special connection to the house. It is as if it’s alive and she can feel its beating heart when she presses herself up against the walls.
One fine day, to this peaceful world, enters Man (Ed Harris). Him is clearly enthused to see the guest and invites him to stay while Mother is wary of the stranger. She feels tremors in the house as if something has disturbed the system. Reluctantly she agrees to let Man stay the night. During the night, Mother sees Man being assisted to the toilet by Him. Man has a wound on his torso around his rib cage which Him hastily covers up. In the morning, another guest arrives: Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer)! Guess what? She’s Man’s wife. The new guest makes Mother more nervous and restless while Him seems happier to see another face and ends up offering to let them stay! As it turns out, Man and Woman are huge fans of Him’s work and they are here to meet Him as Man, who is dying, wishes so. Unfortunately the curious couple accidentally breaks Him’s beloved crystal which makes Him furious! Meanwhile, their sons arrive at the house arguing about Man’s will. During the family drama, the Younger Son (Brian Gleeson) is gravely injured by the Oldest Son(Domnhall Gleeson). The Oldest Son flees. Him, along with the couple takes Younger Son to the hospital.