With Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain, two absolutely excellent films, glistening on his resume, director Darren Aronofsky was always a favourite of mine. I even liked Noah and Black Swan, but he was getting a bit obscure and pretentious. Then he made The Whale, which while everyone fawned over, was Oscars bait and unenjoyable mostly.
Mother! Was made in 2017 and the reason I’d never seen it was that my mates either told me it was shit or it was weird. Also if I’m honest I’d totally forgotten about it until I saw a very reasonably priced Blu Ray of it in Fopp, which I don’t think I’ve ever been without buying something. We all have our weaknesses. It’s horror season, Mother! is a nominal horror; it’s rated 18 (so must have something explicit in it) and I’ll always give Aronofsky a chance.
Made before The Whale, comparing them is difficult for me because I saw The Whale first so in this case the egg came before the chicken. Or vice-versa, whatever. There are similarities: both set in one house, both feature mental health, both have a parenthood theme. Jennifer Lawrence plays an unnamed woman (well, "Mother") and Javier Bardem, who frankly is punching being married to J-Law, plays “Him”. Loads of others turn up and flit around deliberately confusingly, including Ed Harris’ mysterious surgeon, “Man”.
My immediate thought was did Gwen Paltrow write this film, and will J-Law shove the crystal in her like Gwen advocates. GP loves a crystal, and a coffee enema. Seriously that woman is more mental than Kellogg, who genuinely thought his cornflakes would stop masturbation.
Only if you use them as lube.
As more and more people circle the central house, there’s some Dawn of the Dead vibes to Mother!, if Dawn of the Dead was made by someone who has forgotten the audience needs to engage with what you’re showing them. No matter how clever you’re being, and Mother! desperately wants you to think it’s clever, you shouldn’t bore or confuse an audience for three quarters of your film. In my opinion. I kept watching hoping for the payoff.
The film is shot in such a vague focus I had to check my projector was set right. Aronofsky seems desperate to throw away the panache he is so superb at. Mother! does at least utilise his skill at editing with its confusing switches in moments.
Given I had so much uninvested mental reserves while glazing over, I debated what Mother! was about*. Definitely a metaphor, but for what? Well I ain’t going to tell you but Mother! is essentially an M. NIght Shamalangadingdong film, you’re really just waiting for the end to see why you’ve wasted your time. It does get violent, which obviously I liked, but that isn’t/wasn’t enough to save the film for me.
Technically confident though unappealing, the action at the end would have been fun at the start so I could turn it off before the rest of the plot sent me to sleep. Do the actors get filled in on the pretentious, and frankly needless, subtext to a film before they film it? That would whittle out the clever ones which would make me think less of the leads in Mother!, I’d have rolled my eyes. I rolled my eyes when it finished anyway. 4/10
*I was right, by the way, because I'm a clever bollocks, ain't I, and also by half way it's pretty easy.