Review: Mother! has breadth and scope but slowly loses its slender grasp on reality
PUBLISHED: 08:55 15 September 2017 | UPDATED: 08:56 15 September 2017
Paramount Pictures/Niko Tavernise
Darren Aronofsky prepares to sharply divide audiences with this twisted psychological thriller that is like an Alan Ayckbourne comedy of manners that is flat sharing with Polanski’s Repulsion.
Darren Aronofsky, whose films include Black Swan, Requiem For A Dream and The Wrestler, is a visionary film maker, in much the same way that Doug Livermore is an England international footballer: there was a space that needed filling, and on a rudimentary level he does the job.
Mother! isn’t like any other film you have seen, but has nothing new to show. Its publicity has been inscrutable, giving away nothing: nothing can quite prepare you for what you are about to receive.
Jennifer Lawrence is the young bride of an acclaimed poet who has been struck down with crippling writer’s block (Javier Bardem).
They live together in a big remote house in the country until one night an enigmatic stranger (Ed Harris) turns up on their doorstep, reluctantly admitting that he is a bit of a fan.
Soon after, the visitor’s spiteful wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) materialises and violence percolates beneath the surface, exacerbated by the arrival of two brothers (played by real life siblings Domhnall and Brian Gleeson).
I have always suspected that Aronfysky is a phoney, but in Mother! everything is deliberately phoney; a cunning double bluff. The first hour is like an Alan Ayckbourne comedy of manners, that is flat sharing with Polanski’s Repulsion.
Lawrence has to politely deal with Harris and his wife Pfeiffer as they barge gracelessly into their idyll; all the while she is seeing strange visions in the walls. The film makes it clear that none of this is to be taken too literally: the thunderous over emphasis of the sound design makes sure of that.
After a while you resign yourself to holding on in there, waiting for the Ta Da moment, when its purpose will be revealed.
Lawrence consumes the attention of the camera throughout and is good value for it. Whatever it is she has, is very special – a near perfect blend of plain and remarkable. Bardem is perfectly cast as the puffed up, full of himself ‘Great Artist’.
And the film does haves something hidden up its sleeve in its last quarter – SPOILER an all encompassing, one size fits all, allegory which ranges from the intimate to the global, takes in all our contemporary and eternal fears from the trivial to the monumental.
Aronofsky has been reading that Bible again. It is this section that will make or break the film for you and even if you hate and despise the film, it’d be churlish to deny that it isn’t a singular experience, and if it grabs you and you believe in it, it may well be remarkable.
If nothing else, it’s probably the film that most closely replicates the logic of a dream, that sense of everything seeming normal while simultaneously spiralling completely out of your control.
The breadth and scope of its ambition should be be applauded but there’s nothing behind it. It’s like the BBC remaking Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation with, say, Mary Berry. You see all the great sights, but without the insight.