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September 25, 2017 | by  | in Film |
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mother! — Darren Aronofsky

“I want to suck Aronofsky’s dick after that.”

— Anonymous companion of critic.

 

Aronofsky’s new film mother! is the most boundary pushing, experimental, intense film I’ve seen all year. It’s also the only film I’ve been to in a very, very long time where people walked out. As an allegory it is uncompromising, as a drama it is riveting, and it’s wonderful to see a director who is so in command of film language that they can bend the rules and play well beyond the bounds that most mainstream audiences would expect.

Jennifer Lawrence plays mother (lowercase, critically) and Javier Bardem plays Him (uppercase, critically). They live a quiet life in a beautiful house that mother has been restoring to create the perfect environment for Him to write and get over his creative block, and things are peaceful. Until, of course, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer arrive as a husband and wife who overstay their welcome. Then their children arrive, and then their extended family. The two plots at play at the film’s core are a home invasion thriller and a psychological drama focused on Him and mother’s relationship.

I don’t want to spoil anything, and I won’t even delve into the multitude of ways to interpret the film, but I will say that its breadth and depth of content make it enigmatic and irresistible. We live in a complex world with a severe weight upon our culture and history, and as such, a film that tackles existence and creation head on is a wonderful thrill. As David Lynch says: life is confusing, so films should reflect this.

Although my response to the film was ecstatic, I won’t pretend the actual experience was entirely joyous. The film is intense, and at times disturbing. The vast majority of the shots centre on Lawrence, with the camera work tightening and tightening and getting shakier and shakier, Aronofsky twisting the claustrophobia knob ’til it breaks. The sound design is also magnificent, with sound and image misaligning in moments of hallucination — emptiness somehow being amplified uncomfortably. While mother and Him are alone in the house, every acoustic footfall reverberates, making the otherwise idyllic uneasy and empty.

I was thinking recently about the underperformance and underappreciation of complex and challenging films in recent years, and I honestly think it echoes the political landscape, but this film is worth your time and money even if it disturbs and confuses you. The ideas and the presentation of them are timely and exceptional, Lawrence and Bardem are constantly fantastic, and the film’s uniqueness is something to be celebrated.

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