Both booed and applauded at the end of its first screening at Venice Film Festival, Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! is a raucous, vicious horror-thriller that also happens to be utter nonsense. It hangs together by the loosest of threads, but Aronofsky succeeds in creating an atmosphere of fear and pandemonium that barrels towards an ending that will have you cheering or retching, or possibly both.
Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play an unnamed couple rebuilding a burnt-out home in the remote countryside. Cracks are beginning to show in their relationship, with both of them feeling trapped. Then, one night, a mysterious man (Ed Harris) stumbles into their home, claiming to have mistaken it for a B&B. He seems harmless enough, so the couple let him spend the night. However, the suspicious arrival of the man’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) sends things down a much darker rabbit hole.
Anything further and we’re approaching spoiler territory, with the power of Mother! lying in its mystery and unstoppable escalation of hysteria. Proper panic begins to set in, and you can feel the walls closing in around you as the situation grows ever more dire. Lawrence and Bardem both do decent jobs in the hellscape that Aronofsky conjures, but this is a film where the acting mostly calls for running, yelling, and hyperventilating. There are some incredibly striking images here, and Aronofsky tackles some huge ideas within the mania, but more often than you’d like, things get way too silly. Mother! has a hard time maintaining a suspension of disbelief, its prestige aims hampered by the conventions of the genre it commits to.
Characters behave like idiots, and there are a good handful of moments where you’ll find yourself muttering “oh, come on” at the screen. Impossible to predict, Mother! is a thrilling experience with ambitions above its station.
CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer
DIRECTOR: Darren Aronofsky
WRITER: Darren Aronofsky
SYNOPSIS: A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.