[Warning! If you have not seen the movie mother! this review contains spoilers]
Before I begin my review on the film mother! I just want it to be known that everything I am writing about in regards to the film’s meaning is what I believe to be the message Aronofsky was trying to display. Many interpretations can be taken from this film and this is mine.
Darren Aronofsky’s newest film, mother!, is this year’s most though provoking film without a doubt in my mind. Now this film is very disturbing, strange and confusing but it is still a film I will recommend to people solely based on its symbolism and the variety of meanings that can be taken away from it. This film will make its audience think, now many people may not see what message Aronofsky is trying to tell in this story and that’s possibly the main reason that audiences generally disapprove of this film.
Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in her rural and isolated home with her husband, Him (Javier Bardem), who is a poet suffering from writers block, which is putting a toll on their relationship. In hopes to help him regain his writing inspiration, Mother, has been refurbishing their home that had been burned down in a fire. One night a man (Ed Harris) arrives to the couples home looking for a place to stay, without hesitation Him allows the man to stay. The next day the stranger’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives, Him allows them to stay in their home as long as the couple would like. Mother is reluctant to have the strangers in her home but allows them to stay anyway. Unexpectedly the strange couples two sons arrive (Brian Gleeson, Domhnall Gleeson) and things quickly take a turn for the worst. As more and more unexpected guest arrive Mother finds her paradise of a home become a burning hell for herself.
What makes mother! different from many movies of recent that I can think of is the camera work. For the majority of the film the camera is either behind or directly in front Jennifer Lawrence, this style if cinematography isn’t particularly a favorite of mine mainly because it puts a strain on my eyes with the camera constantly moving back and forth. What Aronofsky is trying to do here is make the audience see everything through Mother’s point of view. Being able to see everything from her perspective create a bias for the audience by making us favor one character and not being able to connect with any other character in the film.
It’s now the part where we jump down the rabbit hole. Are you ready? Because this movie was one of the strangest and possibly one of the most symbolistic films I have ever seen. Being someone who suffers from anxiety this movie wasn’t exactly a great watch due to its disturbing dialogue and visuals. Through the last half of the film I found my hands extremely sweaty, jaw wide open and felt extreme discomfort sitting in the theater.
Having seen this movie with my girlfriend we immediately discussed it’s meaning on the car ride home. What we were able to dissect from mother! besides its biblical references was that Him represented God and Mother represented humanity/Mother Earth.
Bardem represents God due to the fact that he is a very forgiving and welcoming man, when the strangers who appear at this house break something on the property, insult his wife, or murder his newly born child, he is very quick to forgive as he sees that it is the only thing he can do. We also see that he does not turn away from those in need, when the strangers ask to stay he without hesitation accepts them into his home (symbolism for church). Him is always there for those and puts them before himself which is something he does constantly throughout the film.
In regards to Mother she represents everything pure in humanity/Mother Nature, she constantly gives and is never given anything in return. At first she was happy to love Him and all his oddities unconditionally, all she wanted was his happiness. She begins to truly notice how unappreciated she feels when the stranger’s wife mentions how difficult being a mother is because a mother’s job is to give and never receive. This was probably meant as a hint to the audience as to what her role was. As the movie goes on you eventually see how this begins to take a toll on her mentally and physically. Mother is constantly trying to cater to Him even though he never seems to appreciate anything that is done for him. He continues to invite guests against Mother’s wishes, she begs Him for a night alone and is left waiting alone. She is always put second to his writing, his guests, his temper and Mother was willing to be second if it makes him happy. After seeing the couple struggle throughout the movie there is a ray of hope when Mother tells Him she’s pregnant. Him is suddenly freed from writers block and he creates a masterpiece.
Fast forward nine months and we see her pushed to her breaking point, after she gives birth she refuses to give Him the child in fear that he will share the child with his crazed cult like mob waiting outside the room. After two days of staying awake never letting the child go Mother drifts off for only a moment to awake and find the child gone. Him has taken their so to his followers and allows them to pass his son around, the child is killed and we see how Mother mentally unravels and is emotionally destroyed, she blames Him for not being satisfied with her even when she gave him a son. This is symbolism that humanity/Mother Nature is constantly giving but that is never enough for society as they will always seek more. Their child represents the hope that is born from the goodness of humanity, the followers that invade their home represents the evils that consume the world, and Him represents God. The ending scene in a way represents how an obsession with any type of relationship can destroy the hope meant to save it.
As for Him’s followers or fans of his work we see how they begin to become corrupt and use his words to gain profit amongst others. They chant lines from his poems and create alters in his name. From what I took away was that this was a knock on the institution and corruption of organized religion. How men and women take advantage of broken people to turn a profit by promising everlasting life and false hope for some. Another aspect is that Him’s followers they are very hypocritical in the way they speak to Mother, she is very patient with her husband’s guests but loses it towards the end. When she begins to refuse to cater to their ridiculous requests they begin to get more and more hostile as the conversation continues and quickly escalating to calling her extremely offensive names. At one point in they throw her down onto the floor and a large group begins to beat her mercilessly. The guest’s requests of Mother and their hostility towards her can represent socity’s lack of respect for humanity/ Mother nature. It portrays society’s spoiled attitude that expects to recieve everything without a price attatched.
The film ends with Mother setting the house on fire and killing everyone, only Him survives. After the fire Mother has moments left to live so Him carries her away, Mother expresses her sadness of having nothing left to give but Him then asks for her heart. Even after everything Mother gives her heart to Him, he takes it knowing she cannot give anymore. What I think Aronofsky is trying to show here is that humanity/Mother Nature gives all she has until she is unable to give anymore. He depicts the results of Mother Nature’s relentles giving ang socity’s constant selfish asking and how this can destroy everything including Mother Nature herself. Him (representing God) being the only one alive after everything he must recreate everything. Him explains how he has to start all over because no mater what humanity will always end up destroying itself even though it may have the best intentions.
My take on the film mother! is just one of many possible meanings it could represent. Although I honed in on the biblical aspects to somewhat to describe the movie I felt that there was many other religions that could have been represented in this film. Coming from a Christian background it was the most comfortable way for me to analyze this film. Aronofsky has created a film that will have many hate and despise it, but many others will find it to be pure genius. As for myself I don’t know how I feel about this film because although it made me think and find deeper meanings, I was extremely uneasy and uncomfortable during my experience. Unfortunately this is the first film that I have reviewed that cannot be graded because it is so different and mind boggling.
Final Grade: Incomplete