Film Festival Movie Review

Film Review: MOTHER!: Art and Sacrifice Take on New Meaning in Aronofsky’s Meta Mind-Blower [TIFF 2017]

Jennifer Lawrence Mother!

Mother! Film Review

Mother! (2017) Film Review from the 42nd Annual Toronto International Film Festival, a movie directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Ed Harris. Mother! is creepy, exciting, and a metaphysical marvel. Aronofsky (the director of Black Swan) gives us another piece of cinema saturated in symbolism too rich to contemplate in one sitting. Honestly, anything said about this film is a spoiler. So, SPOILER ALERT.

Mother! is an extreme allegorical experience with a multitude of interpretations. A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests (Pfeiffer and Harris) arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence. Our leads have no names, just Mother (Lawrence) and Him (Bardem), which makes this story instantly universal. Mother! makes you question what makes a home? What is true inspiration? What does writers’ block really feel like? How does love and sacrifice inform art? What in the world did I just see?!

Reminiscent of his work in Black Swan, Aronofsky focuses on the unhinged psyche when it comes to passion. Aronofsky’s direction has us lingering on Lawrence’s face almost entirely. We are forced to concentrate on her emotions, and thus, forced to be empathetic. Sometimes, you want to slap the camera away and shake some sense into Mother, or punch somebody’s lights out in her honor. Watching Mother! evokes a feeling of utter helplessness because the character of Mother goes against every impulse of someone with a solid backbone. It is infuriating.

The home itself is symbolic. When it is yours, you know everything about your home, every sound, every quirk. Mother is possessive and protective of the home she is so proud of making. So, the imposing couple deeply disturbs her quiet enjoyment. Imagine being put-out in your own home while strangers make themselves at home without so much as a “by your leave”. Mother is weak and unable to affect change in her own space as Him continues to trample all over her pride. In this regard, Mother! feels like a film about the hopelessness of being a woman whose self-less love is taken for granted.

Mother! also could be symbolic of writer’s block, and the need for inspiration and adoration. Him must be challenged to create anything, even a baby. His inspiration is when he feels true love in his creation. He also enjoys the attention from enthusiastic cohorts and fans, but ignores the danger of fanatics.

Him is a writer, an artist, while Mother is a home-builder. Her craft is in every timber of their home.  What becomes of their personal masterpieces? What does art become once it is open to interpretation? Does it become less precious? The crude couple that interferes in their solitude also blindly criticizes Mother’s handiwork, which is actually nothing short of restorative genius. Is this a dig at insensitive critics? Mother and Him create a child together and Him gifts the baby away for the LITERAL consumption of the masses that are crowding their intimacy. Looking at the film from an artist’s perspective, Mother! could be about the price of fame.

Mother! could also be about heartbreak. Him cycles through women like new pages in a journal. Three women appear at crucial times in the film that suggest Mother is interchangeable. This feels like a look into the mind of the serial monogamist. Mother is consumed by fire, her heart flushed down the toilet and ripped from her chest. These scenes are almost comedic given the special effects used to draw our attention to the bruised, beating heart inside this home. Still, there is a bruised, breaking heart to consider.

Then, we watch a pregnant Mother get knocked around mercilessly as she struggles to find relief in the war zone that has consumed her home. Is this symbolic of domestic abuse? Only after she is bloody and broken, and everything she built is reduced to charred rubble is Mother allowed to live again. “Fire and blood” are the main substance of this house (making me wonder when Daenerys Targaryen might sprout from the flames with her dragons and put this insane woman-bashing to rest).

The characters are nameless. We could possibly identify with any one of these people and their emotions. The grotesque images pile upon each other till they fill the screen completely. The sounds of infant bones cracking, bombs exploding, and gunshots whizzing through the air are unforgettable. Mother! is a house of horrors.

This film is a trip! Even seeing it, you still won’t believe your eyes. LawrenceBardemHarris, and Pfeiffer play their parts beautifully, especially Pfeiffer who strikes just the right tone at all the wrong times. Some might even think it is over-the-top and twisted. It could be perceived as a metaphysical mind-blower that needs several viewings to fully grasp. Either way, it is definitely an experience that leaves you with an elevated heart rate.

Score: 8/10

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About the author


I am ...a lover of all things film ...a published poet with a law degree from Howard University School of Law ...a D.C. native, who frequents local and international film festivals ...a self-professed couch potato who can usually be caught watching anything produced by Joss and Jed Whedon. My favorite TV shows include the Buffy & Angel Series, Sons of Anarchy, Oz, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and The Shield. Still, I am open to everything on TV and Netflix, which is doing big things.

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