Initially, Darren Aronofsky’s symbolic nightmare is a driving force in shock and awe, garishly spinning the brain into a haze of exhausting disbelief trying to piece together the oddly macabre manifestation which takes the route of utter, inexplicable astonishment the further into the anguish filled fever rolls on.
It’s surprising to know that mother! only took Aronofsky five days to write, influenced by the haze of the world around him from the intrusion of notifications on smart phones to the depressing headlines filling the news day in and day out. The filmmaker is known for his immersive and symbolic work with the likes of Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, but his latest offering takes an even darker step into a world set on its own destruction for its invasive obsession of celebrity, which is just one facet that screams horrifyingly from the very heart of Aronofsky’s script.
Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a nameless married couple, Bardem, a writer and famous poet adored by his many fans and hit hard by writer’s block, whilst Lawrence, the serenely dutiful and passive housewife spends her days rebuilding their mansion like octagonal home – A home that belongs to the much older Bardem’s family which was once destroyed in a fire. Even with the facade of the perfect couple in a perfect home, there is something eerily and inherently wrong beneath the surface centring around a delicate crystal with a streak of red flowing through its middle, it starts to slowly unravel as a stranger (Ed Harris) unexpectedly shows up on their doorstep late one night. Excited by the outside distraction, Bardem welcomes the guest into their home and inviting him to stay to the horror of Lawrence, but her nightmare is only set to spiral as the stranger’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) soon follows and a human heart makes an appearance in a toilet bowl.
Treated with disdain and disrespect from Pfeiffer, Lawrence grows suspicious of the couple who have made themselves comfortable in her home whilst Pfeiffer questions the couple’s relationship and sensitive subject of their sex life and lack of children building Lawrence’s angst and anguish to an unbearable level. When the strange couple finally leaves after the invasion of their home from a tragic event, Lawrence finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. Following a chapter like structure jumping to space in time with a heavily pregnant Lawrence, Bardem has finally found his creative flow but with his latest poetic masterpiece comes a whole new level of invasive celebrity.
Aronofsky’s fondness for the facial close-up’s rages through showing every agonising, derisive, and completely ignorant expressions of a brilliant cast performance, Lawrence, even though the weakest link, takes the difficult role of mother! fuelled with painstaking anxiety from the invasion of her home and the protection of her child to heart-stopping levels, whilst Bardem’s dismissive and fame absorbed husband show’s heights of brilliance. Even Pfeiffer’s cruel and contemptuous wife riles a sympathetic reaction for the put upon Lawrence.
Aronofsky’s mother! is a superbly astonishing piece of filmmaking, an experience that lingers in the psyche after the initial daze of bewilderment has worn off. Chaotic, it plays on the inner torment of anxiety and the invasion of privacy, whilst also placing the blame on those who demand fame without giving a second thought to the consequences it places on family life.
mother! is in cinemas September 15.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Darren Aronofsky
STARS: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer
RUNTIME: 120 Mins