Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Kristen Wiig
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Studded with Oscar winners, and directed and written by the director of Black Swan, mother! is a film that’s hard to define and challenging to watch.
It’s the story of a couple. He’s a well known writer (Bardem) with writer’s block, and she’s his younger wife (Lawrence), who spends her time rebuilding his house that burned down, with loving attention to detail. But their paradise will soon be disrupted when a stranger (Harris) turns up on their doorstep and ends up staying the night, with his sharp and unkind wife (Pfeiffer) in tow. Things soon spiral out of control.
And when I say spiral, I really mean that. This film defies simple definition. It’s not really a drama exactly… Or a thriller exactly…
Jennifer Lawrence’s unnamed character is the main protagonist, and the film follows her, with the camera focusing on her almost all the time. She’s the fascinating heart of this mysterious film, a wife much younger than her writer husband, a beautiful figure who’s control of her environment is slowly eroded. Her pride is the house, which she has lovingly restored and rebuilt by hand, and you can tell that the cracks in her relationship bother her. Her husband is a man who seems charming, but strange. He brushes aside her needs and forgets to think about how things will effect her. This starts with small things, asking strangers to stay in their home, and moves to greater and greater things.
She never leaves the house. She can see the charred and beating heart of the house when she puts her hand to the wall. There’s something sinister in the basement. But none of these things are the thrust of the film. They’re part of the tapestry. The film explores things in a dreamlike, timeless way, one thing occuring right after another, within a breath, and eventually being carried to the extreme. No one listens to her, though she does try to be heard, and that feels dreamlike too, in the way that people approach her, their words out of context.
There are themes of motherhood, marriage, creativity, home and feelings of safety and privacy, and even abusive relationships explored here, as well as references to political upheaval and Catholicism. It’s all there. The whole film functions as a metaphor, and I feel that it may be the case that different people will see and feel different things in it. Aronofsky wrote it in 5 days, pouring out his heart and his feelings onto the page in a stream of emotion about life and the world, but it defies definition in genre and also in meaning because of that, but goes to some very interesting places.
Did I like it and would I recommend it? Yes, I think so. I loved Jennifer Lawrence in this film, she felt warm and vulnerable, and I felt like I could relate to the way she gets railroaded by the things that invade her life (though in a metaphorical sense, I can’t say what happens to her has ever happened to me). I liked the way the film passionately and explosively invades the centre of our lives: home and mother. Because those are the things that are both vulnerable and most precious to us, on a really primitive level. On the flip side, there’s a lot in this film, and it felt a little long. It also goes to quite an extreme, which I feel was all a bit much. I mean, it really gets a bit out there. Did it really need to? What does it achieve? I rather liked it, but I think those things might bother some of you.
See It If: you’ve ever felt like you’ve said no and no one listened. It’s a film of strangeness and metaphor and therefore may be a bit arty for some of you. Interesting all the same.