Molly Simpson: I went into the movie very excited to see it. Darren Aronofsky is one of my favourite directors and while I was disappointed by Noah, I thought mother! would be a return to form. That said, I also went into mother! completely blind. I hadn’t seen a single trailer—I only knew the cast and the basic premise—that a woman’s life is disturbed when guests show up to her house uninvited. I had no idea what I was getting into, but what I got into was a wild ride.
Wilfred Moeschter: I, however, spoiled the movie for myself because I never thought I’d watch it. After Molly forced me to go with her, I figured it would be a good time to test out the theory that movies can be more enjoyable when you know what happens—maybe I could enjoy the ride instead of being surprised at every scene. In retrospect, I’m glad I wasn’t sitting in fear the whole time, because I can’t deal with tension, and Aronofsky is a pro at creating it.
I was absolutely prepared to be terrified, even buying some popcorn for the sole purpose of stress eating. Yet while mother! certainly has violent moments, I wouldn’t say that it’s scary in a traditional sense. There is some gore, but there are no jump scares, and what’s ultimately the scariest is the overwhelming sense of dread. Aronofsky built emotion with his use of sound—alternating between loud, tense music and silence, with the only other sound being the creaking of the old house (which was unnaturally loud by the way. I bet the Foley artists had a field day).
Interestingly, I don’t even remember there being music, which is odd, since music is what I generally pick up on first, but I found that the sound effects took away from the uneasiness—Aronofsky crammed mother! full of cheesy sound effects that meant nothing in particular, but still made sure to let you know that something spooky was indeed happening.
=In terms of acting, though, Jennifer Lawrence is excellent in her role as an unnamed woman, referred to as “Mother” in the credits, who perfectly embodies the definition of a so-called perfect housewife.
She cooks! She cleans! She paints! She renovates the entire house, room by room!
She’s so preoccupied with being helpful that “I’ll do it” becomes her catchphrase!
The whole film doesn’t solely revolve around her, though. Mother is married to Javier Barden’s unnamed writer, credited as “Him.” Very early on in the film, a mysterious Ed Harris turns up at the house, and it’s revealed that he is a big fan of the writer’s work. His wife, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, turns up, and soon other family members join, which only exasperates Mother more and more.
Aside from Lawrence, Pfeiffer is the other shining performance as Harris’s witty, judgemental, and often rude wife. She perfectly adds an occasional comedic moment to an otherwise tense film. The scenes between the two actresses are where the movie truly dazzles.
After a while, Mother’s home is packed with people, all obscene and disrespectful, and they slowly trash her house and steal her belongings as she watches helplessly. If you spoiled this movie for yourself, the central allegory is quite obvious and a little heavy-handed.
I say I went into the film blind, and I did, mostly. However, I did have the environmentalism allegory spoiled for me – which, while it didn’t affect my knowledge of the plot, did prevent me from being able to fully answer the question of if I’d have picked up on it or not. I like to think I would have, as Aronofsky is hardly subtle in his metaphors. However, with regards to environmental protection, the time for subtlety has passed.
As more uninvited guests arrive, Mother becomes more ill and the bloodstained hole in the floor enlarges as the beating, metaphorical heart inside the wall starts to shrivel. Mother pleads with Him to please send the mob of people away, yet she resignedly and dutifully cleans up the mess they cause.
The pacing is admittedly strange, and it was a harrowing experience that went from deceptively calm to completely crazy with little in-between. Wilf remarked to me that he found even the action scenes boring, but I thought that the slower parts of the movie were the most interesting. It was actually towards the end, when it became more action-heavy that I found mother! less enjoyable to watch. During the climactic last thirty minutes, I found myself checking the time and waiting for the end of the film.
I didn’t find it boring, THANK YOU VERY MUCH—I just found it tedious to sit through. mother! is very neatly crafted and well-executed because of how the scenes with the mob contrast with the emptiness of the house when Mother is alone. Keeping the central allegory in mind, a problem arose: the mob filled the theater with noise, assuring me that nothing would give me a fright, and the guests’ rudeness brought humour to the film. In contrast, the more silent and empty the house became, and the more Mother seemed at ease, the more unbearable the suspense became for me.
I would agree with you there; the film is at its most tense when Mother is at her least tense. So, Wilf, would you recommend mother! to the readers?
To be honest, no. I don’t feel like telling you to go experience this for yourself. I thought mother! was good and quite chillingly got across the point it wanted to, and there’s plenty to appreciate. However, I would rather have just read a detailed summary in the comfort of my room and appreciated that instead. Finish reading this review and instead of seeing mother!, do something fun! Hug your pet! Call your parents! The world is your oyster for 121 extra minutes. mother! grossed $39 million over a $30 million budget so it won’t be offended or hurt if you don’t see it. I’ve heard Blade Runner 2049 is good!
I disagree. You may not enjoy this complete fever dream of a film (you probably won’t), but you will certainly come out with something worth talking about. Yes, it may not be a fun time, but I don’t know that movies need to always be a fun time. Go see mother! and form your own opinions on this worthwhile film!
Wilf’s final rating: holy shit!
Molly’s final rating: B+ (the B stands for batshit crazy)
Feature image courtesy of Pop Sugar