Mother!

Watched: 3 February

Darren Aronofsky’s Mother Earth parable is certainly a visceral experience, especially during the second half, in which Jennifer Lawrence’s character ‘her’ is terrorised by hordes of unwanted and uninvited visitors in her house, several of whom start to attack her (a couple of scenes here arguably go too far in depicting the violence, but hey, maybe that’s just me).

There are plenty of grisly, horror-style sights too – decaying, still-beating hearts, blood travelling along the floor and seeping along walls, creatures in the bathroom, etc) – all of which seemingly stem from an act of original sin that’s committed during the first act, and are apparently signs that the house in which the entire film is set (i.e. the Earth itself) is slowly and then rapidly dying while humans strip it of all its assets. There’s a measured, gradual build-up to this at first, with Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer intriguing as (I presume) Adam and Eve, and Domhnall and Brian Gleeson playing Cain and Abel figures; by the end, though, you feel like Aronofsky has been bludgeoning you around the head with his metaphors and his religious stand-ins for two hours – presumably the director’s commentary features him eagerly barking the questions “Do you get it? How about now? How about now? How about now?” for the full 120 minutes.

I was impressed by the commitment to the cause, though: clearly the entire cast and crew were on board and behind Aronofsky, and the house is a fascinating setting, seemingly big enough to have secret areas but also small enough to suddenly appear full to the brim as the camera whizzes round 180 degrees. And whizz it most certainly does; the cinematography is restless, the focus often snapping back onto the face of Lawrence, who is shot in medium close-up and looks perplexed for the first 90 minutes and then miserable for a further half-an-hour. I’m loathe to jump on the ‘masterpiece’ bandwagon, as I don’t think mother! is anywhere near as clever as its maker thinks it is, but it’s undoubtedly an interesting and unusual film that offers a rather damning, myopic and finger-wagging critique of humanity and organised religion, and it’s also a bit of a technical marvel. (***½)