18 – 121mins – 2017
MATRIACHAL METAPHORICAL MADNESS
From the controversial Requiem for a Dream to the crucified Noah, via underappreciated The Fountain to Oscar-winner Black Swan, acclaimed filmmaker Darren Aronofsky certainly cannot be accused of ever holding back on his confrontational and surrealist visions. In his latest audience-dividing vision, striking psychological thriller mother!, he may well have crafted his boldest, bloodiest and most bonkers audio/visual art-piece to date – for better or worse!
Hollywood A-listers Jennifer The Hunger Games Lawrence and Javier Salazar’s Revenge Bardem star as unnamed husband and wife, her and Him (note the purposeful use of lower- and upper-case letters), who live a quiet existence in His old family home. her is personally renovating the building, room-by-room, following a devastating fire, while her much older beau is a renowned poet struggling to re-find his mojo.
This all changes, however, when Him opens the door to a needful stranger, man (Ed Harris), boldly welcoming the B&B-hunter into their home, without consultation. her is mildly put-out, and retreats into an insular, depressed state while trying to put a brave face on her unhappiness. However, her pain is only inflamed when man’s wife, woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), turns up unannounced and highlights that there are underlying issues smouldering beneath the surface of this isolated paradise.
Discomfort soon grows into horrific disharmony when two warring sons (real life brothers Domhnall “General Hux” and Brian Assassin’s Creed Gleeson) push their way in, too, and turn the house into a crime scene. With Aronofsky’s camera stuck awkwardly close to Lawrence’s spiralling, helpless heroine throughout, this powerful, intense, tension-filled first half teeters mighty close to absolute genius. I felt for her as her grasp on her marriage and home is taken from her by bullish, ignorant and flat-out disrespectful outside forces. Pfeiffer is the epitome of cold-eyed bitchiness.
Alas, mother! does not end there, essentially repeating the same peace > invasion > madness structure in a ramped-up and, frankly, ghastly second half which is so confusingly chaotic in its lurid depiction of agony, anarchy and the downfall of civilisation as to be out-right disturbing, nay: sickening.
I quite understand that it’s not to be taken at face value – it’s less a narrative plot than a sensory cavalcade delivered via an ever-so-clever metaphor-crammed allegory of age-old biblical tales – but that doesn’t excuse how uncomfortable it all made me feel. Aronofsky has produced a grotesque mind-fuck which goes far beyond the surreal violence of Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise (reviewed HERE), which is another example of a microcosmic metaphor which descends into vile debauchery and unrepentant violence.
The Fountain and Black Swan rank among my favourite films; deep, dark, thought-provoking and message-delivering in their often-beautiful execution and off-kilter, high-concept weirdness. For its first hour, mother! felt like prime five-star Aronofsky, yet the intriguing teases and multitude of questions raised were less succinctly unanswered than they were lost beneath an intense and unbearable orgy of ugliness which had me begging for the end credits. It sounds mad to say it about a film which opens with a fire-fused diamond and a house which has a heartbeat, but mother! jumps the shark in a shamefully big way and it never recovers its footing.
CR@B’s Claw Score: