While in the midst of renovating a previously burnt down home that belonged to her (Lawrence’s) famous poet and also nameless husband (Bardem), things get awry as a strange and, try to guess it, nameless couple (Pfeiffer and Harris) are invited to stay in their home.
Aronofsky is, without a doubt, among the masterclass of modern day filmmakers. His filmography includes the likes of “Black Swan”, “The Wrestler”, and maybe his most famous work, “Requiem for a Dream.” He’s been able to operate in his own specific niche that is both mainstream and unconventional. “mother!” is more the latter. Much more.
This is the type of movie that will likely make the vast majority of it’s audience deeply disturbed as they leave the theater. Whether or not this is a positive thing is up to each individual person. Some people will hate this movie, some will love it. As for the writer of this review, while he can’t necessarily say that he loved it, it’s an effective film that will most certainly stick with him, for better or worse.
Maybe one of the film’s strongest aspects is its pace. Both Aronofsky and editor Andrew Weisblum edit the film in such a way that almost consistently from beginning to end builds upon itself scene by scene, shot by shot, frame by frame. It’s so steady in the way that it increases as it goes on that audience won’t even notice the drastic changes the film makes until they compare where the film ends to where it was when it began. The film locks its audience to the screen with each frame despite how much they might want to look away at times.
Cinematographer Matthew Libatique does some stunning work in the film. With its pace, as the film goes on, and not to spoil anything, but the screen fills itself with more and more things as the film progresses. This could have very easily made the film feel cluttered and overall hard to follow, but Libatique balances the visuals in such a way that as hectic as the film becomes as it approaches its climax, the audience is still able to connect all of its images into one coherent sequence.
This film does not have a score. Its soundtrack consists of creaky wooden floors and crackling fire. The sound is all natural. The sound design created by Aronofsky and sound designer Paula Fairfield completely sucks the audience into the film. It surrounds and creates this unnerving feeling all the way through, because it sounds real. It's the complete opposite of most modern day horror films, which rely on loud sounds a screeching violins to create suspense. Instead, this film seeks to shock its audience with its visuals alone.
While Lawrence does seem to be an Oscar favorite, she has been known to phone in quite a few of her more recent performances, particularly the X-Men films. However, here, she gives a mesmerising performance. While she does speak in the film, she does a good amount of her acting through her eyes. She effectively expresses a wide range of emotions, such as fear, confusion, and absolute horror through this way alone. As big of a star as she is, as the film goes, the audience forgets that they’re watching Jennifer Lawrence, and instead see her as the nameless character.
Bardem, likewise, gives a great performance. He’s got a presence to him like no other. While he can appear as warm and inviting, there’s something that lies naturally in Bardem’s cold eyes that will always reveal that there’s something amiss. He has this power to him as well that shifts from being strong to frightening, and often times both. It’s effective whenever he raises his voice as it resonates throughout the theater. He too blends with his character to the point he becomes him for the audience.
Though Harris and Pfeiffer aren’t given nearly as much screen time as Bardem and Lawrence, their performances still stand out in the overall film. Pfeiffer, especially, chews the scenery with the way she moves and speaks. As the film progresses, her attitude changes and more is revealed about her personality. She does it subtly enough that, like the film, it isn’t noticeable until her character has completely changed.
“mother!” is, to say the least, not for everyone. Its main purpose is to disturb its viewers, and while it does it effectively, audience members will each take different values and interpretations from their experience. It’s an expertly made film by Darren Aronofsky, complete with beautiful cinematography, engrossing sound design, and great performances from nearly its entire cast. Despite all of this, it's the content of the story that will ultimately determine audience’s opinions and will likely make the film one of the most talked about of the year, if not many to come.