Wow. Alright. I have never been in this position before. I saw mother! about an hour ago and have not been able to stop thinking about it. This remarkable film has put me into a mental paradox of not being able to think about anything other than reviewing it, and simultaneously not even remotely knowing how. I guess I’ll just preface with this: mother! is one of the most audacious movies I have seen in my entire life.
I can’t tell you what this movie is about. I just can’t. And I don’t mean that in the sense of “I don’t want to spoil it for you, I want you to go in cold,” like I usually do. Even if I were to sit down face to face with you and run down every single thing that happens in this film you would still not even remotely be prepared for what this movie has in store for you. I will warn you, this movie is absolutely insane. It’s harrowing and uncomfortable and provocative. It will be, without a doubt, the most polarizing film of the year. Nothing else even has a chance. Darren Aronofsky has done something unthinkable. He has crafted a movie more daring and intense than any of his previous work, including Pi and Requiem For A Dream. The sheer visceral nature of this film is unexplainable. Out of curiosity, I went back and watched the trailer to see how it was they were advertising this maelstrom of a film. Predictably, they were trying not to reveal the controversial nature of the film, but instead were marketing this as a typical home invasion thriller. If you’re excited to go see a neat little thriller starring the biggest movie star of our generation, be wary. Because you are not getting that. There was one thing the trailer got right though. The tagline that flashes in between esoteric shots read “Seeing is Believing.” They’re right about that. This movie definitely needs to be seen to believed.
If you are one of Jennifer Lawrence’s critics who repeatedly asserts that she’s “overrated” and “exactly the same in every movie,” prepare to be proved wrong. I know it’s a movie review cliche to say “you’ve never seen Jennifer Lawrence like this,” but…it’s just…you haven’t! I want to be able to explain to you what makes this time different, but if you haven’t seen the movie you just won’t be able to understand. Her character is unbelievable. Javier Bardem, too, is fantastic. His performance was nuanced in a way that I remain fascinated with ever since the lights in the theater came on. It’s really a testament to both of these actors that in the first half when the movie feels decidedly more familiar, they still were secretly providing a performance that in retrospection, is wholly brilliant and unlike anything, either of them has ever done. We spend the entire movie with Lawrence, as the cinematography is almost exclusively tracking shots of her as she interacts and reacts with everything happening around her. This technique is absolutely inspired, as most of the film’s pure adrenalized spectacles are grounded and able to be fully understood as she is every bit as perplexed as we are.
I guarantee you this movie will have the most people walk out of it than any other film released in 2017. As soon as it ended, I heard the man behind me utter, “that was crap.” And the rest of the audience members also grumbled their frustrations with the film as they milled out of the auditorium. And, honestly, I can’t say I blame them. After all, if you go to the theater expecting The House at the End of the Street, and you get something that is definitely not The House at the End of the Street, you’re going to be really angry. I, personally, found this film to be absolutely captivating, and was floored with each passing scene. There were several moments during it that had me on the edge of my seat baffled at how brazen it all was. This movie is a stalwart, aggressively unconventional approach to filmmaking that is just not seen very often onscreen. I did think that it dragged in a few parts and repeated a few of the same beats one too many times, but ultimately I considered it to be an absolutely fascinating theater experience. Does that mean I recommend it? I don’t know that I can. Because trust me, you’re just not prepared.
All images are from mother! a film by Paramount Pictures