Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Brian Gleeson, Domhnall Gleeson
Runtime: 115 min
Darren Aronofsky directs and writes mother!, a story about an apparently peaceful couple's relationship that is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home and disrupt their life.
I'm seating here thinking "how can I review this film without spoiling at least a small hint of what the plot really is?". To be clear, the marketing for this movie isn't exactly honest, but I also don't think it's trying to be deceiving. It tries to be mysterious and to some viewers that might negatively affect them once they actually watch the film because mother! has NOTHING to do with whatever the trailers are selling.
Thus, this is going to be a very awkward review since I'm going to say some stuff that apparently doesn't make any sense, but after you watch the movie you'll understand my struggle to not spoil this for my readers.
This is a film that's going to be discussed for years without end due to one of the most controversial, offensive and shocking screenplays of all-time. It's based on an extremely delicate theme and that's the reason why critics are either glorifying or destroying this movie, there isn't a middle term for mother!.
As for myself, I truly think that Darren Aronofsky just produced a masterpiece. It deserves some Oscar's nominations, but I very much doubt that even Jennifer Lawrence is going to get one. The Academy is definitely going to ignore this film since it can easily bring a big group of protesters to start a whole new preconception. So, why do I side with the people that state that this is a great movie?
Honestly, the story is told in such an unbelievably amazing way that it elevates everything else. Midway through the runtime, it's relatively easy to figure out where the film is heading and what it really is about. The subtleness in the details, the depth in the metaphors and the thought-provoking allegories makes this one of Aronofsky's best scripts.
There isn't a single misplaced moment, everything has some sort of metaphorical meaning which brings a sense of mystery and uncertainty to every scene. His vision is quite dark, intense and sometimes (too) shocking, but it's fantastically realized. He directs the hell out of this movie: an excellent use of the camera (several long one-takes), a very suspenseful soundtrack and a beautifully edited third act, that show all of his perspectives on some thrilling and unbreathable 25-30 minutes.
I'm not going to say that for you to love this film you have to share the same opinion as of the director, but it does help if you at least understand his way of thinking. I'm not going to lie, I pretty much share the same vision when it comes to the evolution of the theme that he explores. However, that doesn't mean that some scenes are stretched too far because they are indeed super powerful and shocking, but I think that's Aronofsky letting his rage and anger flow in the screenplay.
I know for a fact that he released 12-14 pages of a press-kit guide where he expresses his frustration and issues with humanity in general. Those feelings are completely shown in the last act where he goes all out. He says he wrote the screenplay in five days ... Well, I bet that the final moments are Aronofsky going wild and writing non-stop because I'll never forget the continuous chills I had during the whole thing. It's masterfully stunning.
As for the rest of his work, the suspense is very well utilized, especially in the first two acts where there's still a general perception of a conventional horror/thriller genre. The characters are extremely well-developed due to his excellent writing that never breaks the first law of storytelling: "never tell". There isn't any expositional dialogue, in fact, there are some lines that are very profound and significant that I'll keep in mind for the next few days.
There are only a few people left to mention, the ones that take the director's words into something more through their exquisite acting. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem have two Oscar-worthy performances that are probably going to be snubbed by The Academy.
J-Law is at the top of her game and this movie proves it. The internet has been over-saturated with her appearance in every single film nowadays, but I think that's due to her quick, exponential growth in popularity. She's a wonderful actress and the multi-layered amount of emotion that she brings to her character is astonishing. It's a terrific, compelling and incredibly committed display that pushes her to the top contenders' list for the major awards.
Javier Bardem also gives an excellent performance, even if it's his counterpart that catches the bigger chunk of screentime. Still, he shows a very powerful, crazy and passionate dedication to his role, something that definitely elevates his character. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer have supporting jobs and their chemistry seem both honest and sassy, which some people might find strange, but I thoroughly enjoyed their performances.
Despite all of the incredible directing skills, there are still some issues. The second act's pacing seems unbalanced, especially in the slow parts where I honestly think the movie brings himself down a bit. In addition to this, the loud soundtrack mixed with some fast cuts convey a sense of convolution at times, even if it's meant to confuse the audience. However, I think most of this can be smoothed out with a second viewing.
Still, this film isn't for everyone. It truly isn't. If I ever show this movie to my mom, she'll be terrified for the rest of her life. It's really intense and outrageously offensive, which connects to my bigger issue with the film: some scenes are simply not necessary. I mean, there are moments where I think that Aronofsky should have stopped writing for a second. I think his frustration took him to places in his mind that are far beyond any imagination and I didn't need to watch some gory stuff to understand his point of view.
But, all in all, mother! leaves the director's mark all over the place. Aronofsky writes a screenplay that is going to be discussed for years and it's definitely one of the most divisive movies ever. His masterful directing and his subtle, metaphorical and meaningful writing, elevate an extremely thought-provoking, intense and shocking story, told in a never-seen perspective. Jennifer Lawrence has an Oscar-worthy performance, as Javier Bardem supports her brilliantly, but some scenes are just too much gory and unnecessary to defend the director's statement.