Director: Darren Aronofsky Writer: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Brian Gleeson, Domhnall Gleeson, Jovan Adepo, Amanda Chiu, Stephanie Ng Wan, Stephen McHattie, Ambrosio De Luca, Kristen Wiig, Chris Gartin
Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)
A Word from the Guise:
mother! mother! mother! How do I even begin to explain mother!? mother! is flawless.
Okay, Mean Girls quotes aside, I truly loved mother! This is Darren Aronofsky’s brilliant and horrific followup to Black Swan (we don’t speak of the abomination that is Noah). It redefines the horror genre in ways that you cannot possibly imagine. This will, no doubt, be an unpopular opinion, as it has earned a blundering F on CinemaScore, but sits with a modest 6.8/10 on IMDb and 69% on Rotten Tomatoes. None of this is surprising, however; I knew, as the final credits rolled, that this would be a polarizing film. Critics and audiences alike would either love it or hate it. There is no middle ground where mother! is concerned.
Academy Awards Hopes:
– Best Motion Picture of the Year: Without a doubt, we have never seen a film quite like mother! And the more I think about it, the more and more I love it.
– Best Actress in a Leading Role: Jennifer Lawrence is as exquisite as ever in this film. One could argue that she’s just another Mary Sue, but I would disagree with that. Even at the beginning of the film, when mother is at her meekest, Lawrence breathes life into her. She is uncertain yet quizzical, and over time grows to be fearsome and unforgiving.
– Best Actor in a Leading Role: Javier Bardem brings a vulnerability unseen in most male characters that I cannot really delve into without spoiling much of the film’s plot.
– Best Actress in a Supporting Role: It’s been 25 years since last we saw Michelle Pfeiffer in contention for an Oscar, but here she proves that she has far from lost her touch.
– Best Director: Darren Aronofsky is a brilliant filmmaker (Noah notwithstanding), and mother! might just be his greatest work yet.
– Best Original Screenplay: Aronofsky should have previously been nominated in the Adapted Screenplay category for Requiem for a Dream. So far, however, he’s only been nominated for his direction of Black Swan (which was well-deserved). The writing in mother! is nothing short of perfection. To snub Aronofsky in this category would be a crime.
– Best Cinematography: The cinematography is what sealed this as a horror movie. It had you waiting at the edge of your seat for all the predictable scares, but they never came. It heightens your sense of fear and paranoia, putting you right in mother’s shoes.
– Best Production Design: Houses in horror movies are always rundown and terrifying. But what makes the house in mother! unique is that it’s not terrifying. Mother has poured her entire heart and soul into this house, making it beautiful, making it special. The horrors come from without, from these strangers who do not belong in her paradise.
– Best Sound Design & Best Sound Mixing: Let’s be honest, I have no idea what the difference between these two categories is. And to be honest, I feel like they should be merged into one category. 4 of the 5 films nominated in one of the categories typically carry over into the other category, so I often feel like they deliberately change up one of the nominees as a way of saying, “See! They really are different!!!!” But I digress, it’s not often that I really pay close attention to the sound in a film. But mother! struck me with it’s sound in a way that no other movie had. For example, there’s a scene in the film where Jennifer Lawrence and a Michelle Pfeiffer have a less-than-pleasant exchange. J. Law comes around the corner and Pfeiffer is just standing there. Pfeiffer immediately lays into Lawrence, but just as Lawrence rounds the corner, what sounds like a preemptive lion roar can be heard, cutting right into Pfeiffer’s line. It’s subtle. It’s ingenious. It’s terrifying. Prior to seeing mother!, I was certain that Baby Driver would be the front-runner for both of these categories. But now I’m not so sure.
– Best Original Score: This one might be a bit of a long-shot, as Jóhann Jóhannsson isn’t credited as the film’s composer, but rather as the film’s sound and music consultant (or something like that). Nevertheless, the score in the film is excellent. It’s simplistic, yet it surrounds and consumes you.
– Best Film Editing: I really don’t know how they determine this category, but I’m including it anyway, because I want mother! to get as many nominations as possible.
– Total hopeful nominations: 12
**SPOILER WARNING: HEREAFTER IS A FULL SYNOPSIS. CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN RISK**
Since middle school, I have hated allegorical stories. I loathed everything we had to read in school, because it was always a subtle allegory for this, that, or another thing. But the beautiful thing about mother! is that it makes no attempt at subtlety. mother! is a blatant, unapologetic allegory for creationism, human nature, and religious extremism.
Mother (Mother Nature) (Jennifer Lawrence) is a woman who finds pleasure in rebuilding her husband’s burned down house (Earth). Him (God) (Javier Bardem) is a brilliant poet, struggling to find His next masterpiece. A dying man and his wife (Adam and Eve), played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, arrive at their home. It transpires that man is a huge fan of His previous book (the Old Testament), and Him loves the adoration. But after man and woman accidentally break His priceless gem (the Forbidden Fruit), Him grows furious and mother banishes them from the house. But they refuse to leave, and everything comes to a head when man and woman’s oldest son and his younger brother (Cain and Abel), played by real-life siblings Domhnall and Brian Gleeson, show up. The oldest son is furious that his father is cutting him out of the will. He quarrels with his younger brother, bludgeons him with a doorknob, and flees. Him accompanies man and woman as they rush the younger brother to the hospital. When Him returns, He tells mother than the younger brother dies.
Man and woman return to His home, with mourning guests, who have no respect for the house that mother has created. Mother tries to be patient with them, but when two mourners break an un-braced sink, causing the water main to burst (the Great Flood), mother banishes them from the house. She and Him quarrel, but they end up making love, which leads to mother becoming pregnant. Him is suddenly inspired to write and spends the next nine months crafting his most magnificent work (the New Testament). He sends it to his publisher, herald (Kristen Wiig), and soon after, hundreds upon hundreds of adoring fans arrive at the house to praise Him. But things quickly turn ugly.
Him tells his fans that this house is everyone’s house, and they begin to steal from mother. Soon the zealots faction off, as they interpret His word differently. They fight each other. They kill each other. War breaks out as mother goes into labour. Mother and Him retreat his His boarded-up study (the Garden of Eden), the only untouched room in the house, and there she gives to birth to their son (Jesus). Him wants to show their son to his fans, because it is what they want. Mother refuses, and tries desperately to stay awake, but she succumbs to her exhaustion, and when she wakes she finds the baby is gone.
She rushes to him, but Him has given the baby to the zealots, and they raise him into the air, momentarily united in this beautiful miracle of life. But then the baby is killed by the zealot (Stephen McHattie), who gives pieces of him to the worshipers as penance for their sins (the Blessed Sacrament). Mother, overcome with grief, attacks the worshipers, but they quickly overpower her. Him comes to mother’s aid, and he begs her to forgive them. But mother cannot; in her rage, she splits the ground around her and flees to the basement, where there’s a giant barrel of oil. She cracks the barrel open and sets it ablaze, destroying everything (climate change).
Him, untouched by the fire, carries an charred mother across the ruined house. She tells Him that she gave Him everything, but it was not enough for Him. Him tells her that it was not her fault, for, when you’re a creator, nothing is ever enough. But Him asks for last thing from mother: her love. She tells Him to take it, and Him takes out her heart, and mother crumbles to ash. Him crushes the heart and pulls from it a gemstone, identical to the one that man and woman broke. Him places it on a plinth and the house recreates itself and there is a new mother. Through this, we discover Aronofsky’s perception that Him (or rather God) yearns for perfection and universal admiration, which is the foundation (and plague) of the human condition.