Darren Aronofsky’s new film proves to be divisive. (Spoilers)
Mother! is an interesting movie that might be the most divisive film of 2017. To be honest, I have puzzled over how to exactly write this review. There are going to be some spoilers here. I don’t think I can really do the film justice without going into some of the plot points.
None of the characters have names, which isn’t uncommon in independent circuits, but for a wide release I imagine that was a little odd. A lot of aspects of this film are probably going to be more familiar to fans of art house or independent projects. I have seen Aronofsky accused of being pretentious before, and this film seems to have amplified that complaint. Further, fans of the film are also being labelled the same thing. On the other hand, fans are also saying that people who don’t like it aren’t smart enough to appreciate it. I think both sides are being obnoxious to an extent. This is a film that just isn’t going to be for everyone.
We follow mother (Jennifer Lawrence) who lives in a remote home with her husband, him (Javier Bardem). (Fair warning, spoilers ahead. Or, at least my interpretation of the events.) Bardem is God and Lawrence is mother nature. God creates, and wants to be admired, so he invites more and more people into their home. The first half of the movie is a retelling of the Book of Genesis and other Old Testament stories. There is no way for me to say this without sounding like a prick, but here goes: I was surprised that people were confused about this film. We see the man (Ed Harris) with a wounded rib just before woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) appears. Man and woman do not respect God’s boundaries and break into his sanctuary. Their children (two boys) have a violent confrontation where one kills the other. More and more folks come in before a water main breaks. As said, I don’t want to sound like I am mocking people, but how can this not be obvious?
I thought the first half of the film was actually a bit boring. I know the plot points of the story and this made getting to each step a bit tedious. We have Aronofsky’s environmental mantra throughout as no one listens to or respects mother nature. While there are interesting images and the acting is strong—this section is also more than an hour. I do think some of this could have been trimmed for a tighter experience.
Anyway, once the flood begins we end up with a pregnant mother nature. All seems good for a while and God is able to create something new—a document we are not shown. Everyone loves it, but everyone sees something different. Throngs of people show up at their house and things quickly spiral out of control.
These moments are simply fantastic. I honestly loved the second half. We have the entire history of the world told within separate rooms of the house. Tribalism leads to warfare, jealousy leads to sects, panic leads to terror, and it all destroys the home. Slowly the rot of humanity destroys the house (or the Earth in this case). The point might be simple here, but it is a point well made.
Most people will probably be talking about the baby scene, as the mob wants to hold and touch the child, and then they kill it—and eat it in a mock communion. Their child dies for a chance to change things, but mother has had enough and burns herself to death. We then see God recreate everything with a new mother awakening in bed. Here we see a bit of eternal recurrence as it appears humanity will ultimately destroy the Earth and it is up to God to start over. Here’s the catch though; God is a benevolent fool here. He does seem to be kind hearted (more or less), but his need to please and to be loved forces him to turn a blind eye to the insanity and destruction of humanity. There is no hope for divine intervention. I think this is a more interesting take from an atheist than there simply not being a God. I was also pleased to see Aronofsky have a more focused idea here than in his subpar Noah.
I think the last forty-five minutes are solid, solid cinema. Excellent work here from everyone. The first half though, I don’t know, it just kind of dragged for me. The payoff is worth it, so I do think this is a good film to watch, particularly if you’re a fan of art house stuff. There is also a bit of fun to be had here. This movie could be a fantastic way to get people to think critically about cinema. For example, why are there no mirrors in the house? I wonder how much stuff I missed on a first viewing. This might be one to go back to.
The more I think about the movie (I have walked away from this review for a bit), I think I kind of love it. 9/10.