“Mother!” — perhaps one of the most polarizing films to come out in 2017 — is being shown in the CFAC auditorium on Dec. 8, at 8 p.m. Admission is free.
“Mother!” is written and directed by Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan,” “Requiem for a Dream”) and, by all means, takes the idea of a typical Hollywood movie and flips it on its head. While “Mother!” may have been marketed as a standard thriller or horror film of sorts, there’s really much more going on under the surface.
Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) — yes, the only name her character is given in the movie is actually “Mother” — lives in a mansion in the middle of a secluded forest with her older husband, played by Javier Bardem. The husband (the only name he’s given is “Him”) spends his days working in his study — writing a novel he hopes to get published — while Mother works at repairing and fixing up their home.
They may be alone, but that’s what makes them — or at least Mother — happy. However, everything changes on the night when a stranger shows up from seemingly nowhere.
A man (Ed Harris) knocks on their door asking for a place to stay, and the husband is more than happy to let him in — despite knowing nothing about who he is or what he’s doing here. The man’s wife — played by Michelle Pfeiffer — shortly follows and, before Mother knows what’s happening, they’ve settled down and made themselves at home.
It doesn’t end there, either. The two strangers start to invite themselves into more and more of the house and, before long, they start having their own guests over — all of whom Bardem’s character warmly welcomes. Things continue to escalate to the point of insanity, as Mother finds herself gradually being torn away from her house and the man that she loves.
“It’s a weird movie,” Aronofsky acknowledged in an interview for the film. “You go into it thinking you’re watching one type of movie and it shifts into another type movie. And then it keeps changing, and by the end, hopefully you’re shaken and deeply moved.”
He’s not wrong about it being weird, and the character’s names and age difference between Lawrence and Bardem doesn’t even begin to cover it. Aronofsky’s symbolic tale isn’t one that follows typical conventions, nor is it for the faint of heart. While there are certain elements of horror present in “Mother!,” the film is much more of a reflective piece on current world affairs than it is an example of a specific cinematic genre. This is due to the fact that Aronofsky, who was also working on a children’s film at the time, wrote the screenplay in just five days. He apparently was so fed up with the current state of the world that he more or less locked himself in a room and came up with the story to serve as a therapeutic and reflectional piece.
Much of the subject matter of “Mother!,” then, serves a symbolic purpose: addressing issues of climate change, religion (more specifically, the Old Testament), the relationship between artists and fans and where romance comes into that and much more. All these are done in metaphorical ways, as most characters or places represent something much larger than themselves.
The result is a passionate, disturbing piece that can feel all too realistic at times. Aronofsky thrives off making the audience feel uncomfortable, and the second half of the film, one scene in particular, doesn’t hold anything back.
It’s also nearly impossible to fully comprehend “Mother!” in just one viewing; rather, it requires adequate and attentive screenings, debates and discussions.
“There are so many different messages, so many different ways that you can read everything in the film,” Jennifer Lawrence said in an interview when asked about the film. “I’m mostly excited about watching the arguments. I like watching the controversy. Hearing people argue over this movie is just music to our ears, because that’s why [Aronofsky] made it.”
While people will surely be arguing over “Mother!” for years to come, such a bold and unique take on filmmaking almost makes the film impossible to evaluate. There are some who will surely see “Mother!” as pretentious and preachy, since this is very different from the movies that the trailers advertised, and there are others who will praise Aronofsky for forcing audiences to confront such issues. There’s also some solid cinematic craft at play as well — including the thought-out cinematography and solid performances — that deserves praise regardless how you feel about the message.
Whatever side you end up falling on, viewing the film is almost necessary at this point. “Mother!” is twisted, weird and certainly not for everyone, but Aronofsky deserves massive amounts of credit for taking such a solid stance on the issues that he addresses.
Just remember — don’t sit on the sink. It’s not braced.