Darren Aranofsky’s mother! is a tour deforce. Beginning with an usual set up, the film becomes stranger, and finishes with the wildest of crescendos.
A young woman is creating an idyllic home with her older husband, a writer who is struggling with writer’s block. Their peaceful existence is interrupted by a stranger who visits their remote house…
Written and directed by Darren Aranofsky, mother! is a most striking film. It is perhaps Aranofsky’s most audacious work, and a class above his last feature Noah. The film will intrigue viewers, surprise and horrify them. It is a picture that seems to be about one thing, but transforms into something rather surprising.
There are various themes at play in mother!. The central theme, however, is that of an unhealthy relationship and the extreme detriment that this can cause. As the film progresses, this strand becomes the focus. Nevertheless, there are a number of other aspects to the film. The cult of celebrity becomes increasingly relevant in the second half of the film. To an extent, mother! functions as a patent satire on the worship of celebrity, and indeed of religious fervour. These themes weave together adeptly in the second half of the film.
Aronofsky has crafted a single-location movie where said location has a pivotal role. Although they meld well together, mother! is a film of two halves. The first is unusual and increasingly unnerving. The second leads to all-out mania. The filmmaker ramps up the sense of anxiety and claustrophobia to an almost unbearable degree. Matthew Libatique’s cinematography is wonderful, and the sound design works to great effect. Jennifer Lawrence delivers a fine performance in the central role. Javier Bardem brings the disconcerting quality seen from him before, but the actor does this so well again. Michelle Pfeiffer is magnificent in a supporting role, while Ed Harris is as solid as ever.
Darren Aronofsky delivers a horror brimming with anxiety; one that turns quiet terror to outlandish fear. mother! is eye-opening, thought-provoking, and sublime.