In Mother, director Aronofsky and his collaborators have created an eerily effective thriller which thrives on misdirection and perverts point of view.
This cinematic equivalent of the Penrose steps incorporates allegory, imagery and symbolism wrapped up in a structural Rubik cube. Part social commentary, political manifesto and visually arresting cinematic thesis, Aronofsky challenges you at every turn. Intelligently using sound, silence, framing and deceiving set design Mother revels in ambiguity and tonal manipulation. Unnerving, deceptively riveting but adept at performing cinematic sleight of hand, this feels more like a theatrical piece than arthouse exercise.
Veering between idyllic isolation and full scale domestic riot it remains consistently cohesive despite the shifting narrative, primarily because of an eclectic cast. Grounded by a masterful performance from Jennifer Lawrence opposite Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Domhnall Gleeson this film intentionally wrong foots you throughout. Numerous themes and subtexts are examined through deed rather than dialogue, while the house itself lives, breathes and influences outcomes.
There are those who will watch Mother and write it off as a self-indulgent piece of cinematic theatre for an artist with axes to grind. However to marginalise a filmmaker for expressing his ideas without appreciating the finished product is short sighted. What Aronofsky and his collaborators have created is an eerily effective thriller which thrives on misdirection and perverts point of view. That this cast is able to maintain an equilibrium, react and convey character whilst pyrotechnics are destabilising the scene makes Mother even more impressive.
Many have compared it to Rosemary’s Baby in set up but Mother goes way beyond that Roman Polanski classic in another direction. Jennifer Lawrence overwhelms the pervading tension throughout with a steely vulnerability, which is almost ethereal in its depiction of creative innocence. Mother charts in cinematic terms the process of producing ideas through various mediums, then dissects that emotional aftermath on screen. Cyclical, essential and potentially lethal in its ability to influence, inflame or inspire, Aronofsky opens himself up to criticism either way.
Paragraphs could be wasted dissecting the technique and storytelling nuance on display, but that would be wasting words to no end. This film has been created with the express intention of promoting debate, tempering conversation and questioning belief systems. Distinctly idiosyncratic in approach and disarmingly normal at first glance, Mother gradually peels away layers before descending deeper into darkness. Moments of savagery butt up against idyllically isolated imagery. Murderous actions go hand in hand with awkward carnal couplings, whilst ardent acolytes gather adding another layer to the mix.
For those willing to fully commit, Mother is likely to be memorable whether you appreciate Darren Aronofsky or not. This will remain a challenging film with great performances irrespective of individual opinion, all Aronofsky asks is that you choose a side.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Written by: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer
Released: 2017 / Genre: Thriller
Country: USA / IMDB
Mother was released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 22.