‘Mother!’ gives birth to masterpiece



Jennifer Lawrence stars in the new psychological horror film “Mother!”, directed by Darren Aronofsky. The film has polarized critics upon release and currently carries a 68% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

CLINTON OLSASKY, Executive Editor | [email protected]

It is already one of the most reviled and polarizing films of the year, but Darren Aronofsky’s new psychological horror film “Mother!” may be the director’s most daring movie to date.

“Mother!” follows the story of an unnamed married couple, played by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, whose lives are irrevocably changed one night when a mysterious man and woman visit their country home.

The film largely focuses on the titular mother (Lawrence), whose tranquil life is disturbed and whose unborn child is threatened by a series of unwanted intruders.

Although “Mother!” may be superficially tied to its horror genre trappings, the film retains an immense amount of narrative depth by way of a densely constructed story that incorporates religious allegory and symbolism along with Aronofsky’s trademark directing style.

Directing: 5/5

Aronofsky has already made his mark as one of the most talented filmmakers of the 21st century. However, “Mother!” may be his most visually resplendent work — the culmination of two decades of some of the most inventive, dark and intensely terrifying imagery ever put to film.

With “Mother!”, Aronofsky relies heavily on handheld shots, which are almost exclusively used to follow Lawrence’s character throughout the most ominous corners of her country home. These handheld shots ultimately serve to destabilize much of the film’s visual compositions, which, in turn, reflect the mother’s loosening grip on her home and, by extension, her reality.

In addition, Aronofsky uses a wide range of directorial tools that reinforces the claustrophobia that takes hold in the mother’s house.

Whether it be inward tracking shots, POV shots or internal framing, Aronofsky holds nothing back in creating an uncomfortably tense and nightmare-fueled world of paranoia and terror.

Writing: 5/5

Aronofsky’s uncanny ability to render terror on the screen may only be matched by his ability to weave an incredible amount of symbolism into one of the cleverest and most intelligently written screenplays to come out of a major studio in years.

In addition to directing the film, Aronofsky reportedly wrote the screenplay for “Mother!” in a mere five days, which makes his masterful storytelling all the more impressive.

Indeed, particular praise should be directed to Aronofsky’s ability to tell a convincingly terrifying horror story, while also injecting the film with a heavy dose of Christian symbolism that naturally complements the narrative, rather than distracts from it.

Due to the heavy use of Christian symbolism, the film itself serves as a religious allegory that subverts the traditionally accepted notions of the biblical creation stories — in particular, that of Adam and Eve.

And yet, although the film is heavily influenced by Christian symbolism, the characters featured in the film are much more than thinly drawn archetypes.

True, the characters in “Mother!” are themselves symbols, used to communicate the larger allegory at hand. But not once do they come across as flat or uninteresting. Instead, the core cast of characters are incredibly human, complete with all the flaws and imperfections that constitute our own humanity.

To be sure, this masterful use of characterization can, in addition to Aronofsky’s screenplay, be attributed to the generally excellent performances put forth by the cast.

Acting: 5/5

To put it simply, the often outrageous and surreal atmosphere that permeates “Mother!” would seem too alien — too unnatural — if not for the strength of the acting on display.

In particular, both Lawrence and Bardem deliver career-high performances as the unnamed husband and wife around whom the central mystery of the film revolves. Lawrence is at once heartbreakingly sad and intensely paranoid as the slowly unraveling mother in what is likely her best performance since 2012’s “Silver Lining’s Playbook.”

Likewise, Bardem delivers one of the best performances of the year as the enigmatic and daunting poet whose work ultimately consumes his life — and his marriage.

The other two primary characters that figure prominently in the first half of the film are Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer as the mysterious and similarly unnamed married couple that intrudes upon the two protagonists’ home life.

Harris and Pfeiffer portray their characters with a certain degree of excess that may initially impede the viewer’s ability to suspend their disbelief. However, when taking the symbolic nature of these characters into account, along with the entirety of the film’s narrative, their performances not only make sense — they’re essential.

Overall: 5/5

Aronofsky has made a career out of pushing the envelope with controversial and initially misunderstood films (“Requiem for a Dream,” “Black Swan”), but with “Mother!”, the idiosyncratic filmmaker has ventured into a truly dark creative space that will likely alienate many moviegoers.

However, for those willing to journey with Aronofsky into the darkness, they will be rewarded with a singular cinematic experience that delves deep within our innermost selves and explores what it really means to be human.