by Wayne D’Cruz
Set in an isolated house, mother is centred on the seemingly blissful life of a once-renowned writer (Javier Bardem) and his young wife (Jennifer Lawrence). Bardem suffers from writers’ block. Lawrence spends all her time renovating Bardem’s home that was destroyed in a fire with everything he held dear, barring the exception of a jewelled stone. As Lawrence toils away tirelessly with repairs and whatnot, Bardem struggles to put pen to paper. Fissures start to appear in their relationship with the arrival of uninvited guests.
The first of these guests is a weary surgeon (Ed Harris) who seems to strike a camaraderie with Bardem akin to that of a long lost friend, typically unbecoming of two strangers. Lawrence’s concerns about a stranger sleeping in their home are tossed aside with an off-the-cuff misogyny as is gradually everything she appears rattled by.
Following Harris into the couple’s home the next morning is his amorous wife, played excellently by Michelle Pfeiffer. It is at this moment that the film starts to descend into the realm of the absurd, fascinating and bizarre in equal measure. Pfeiffer constantly pushes and pulls at Lawrence’s demureness, her insolence testing the boundaries at every step.
There appears to be more to the surgeon and the wife than what first meets the eye. Yet Bardem dismisses Lawrence’s anxieties as one would of a child with a smile and benign consolation. As Lawrence is increasingly stifled between the presence of the invasive couple and unexplained occurrences around the house, things quickly start to spiral downhill.
After Pfeiffer, comes along a surge of testosterone with her two bickering adult sons. Lawrence’s increasing discomfort is marked by the crescendo of brutal, unnecessary violence. Then on, the floodgates open.
With mother!, the most striking of all are the allegorical themes of this absurdist drama that play beautifully on screen. From religion to celebrity culture, the poetry and allusion therein is stunning. Bardem and Lawrence don’t miss a beat, their magnetism leaving you in a rapture throughout. mother! is as much a statement (or perhaps more accurately, exclamation!) on motherhood as it is a commentary on the travails of a marriage or the pursuit of glory.
There will clearly be multiple readings that would take as many viewings to determine all that this vile nightmare could possibly signify. Regardless of its (mostly successful) attempt at profundity, it is the kind of film that will undoubtedly polarise audiences. Whether you delight in its delicious, dark metaphors or retch at its lurid visuals, the one thing you can’t fault Aronofsky for is being markedly different from his contemporaries in his art
mother! is out in cinemas 15th September!