There is no doubt that Darren Aronofsky is an incredibly talented director. He has made a lot of great films such as Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan and the Wrestler. They are films that are very different from the norm for sure but that’s what makes them special. Being this good though can sometimes make you feel a bit over-confident, that you can actually get away with far more than you can. So a director should still listen to advice and realise that maybe you are in danger of going up your own arse. Or you can make Mother!
This is where usually the synopsis would go. But today, no, I’m not even attempting to explain what the film is about. I don’t get paid for these reviews, they are for fun and quite frankly it’s not worth the effort to try and explain the set up or anything else that happens. It’s not worth it and I won’t do it. I just want to get this over and done with as soon as I can like ripping a plaster off.
That’s because for everything else I say about this movie, it makes no sense. I’m sure you can read that it’s an allegorical piece about the bible, the environment or something else a film student made up to impress his tutor (Not an insult, I’ve been there), but the base part of the movie just does not make sense. There is no flow between any of the scenes, it will just go from regular creepy to batshit insane stuff without even stopping to take a breath. It won’t bother to try and explain anything that is happening or why it is happening, it will just happen and you will have to accept it. The most common emotion you will have when watching this movie is not fear or uncomfortableness but just a sense of confusion as you try to piece together what’s happen. And just when you think you’ve figured it out, something else happens makes you realise you are just wasting your time.
The basic conceit the movie starts off is a simple one. You have Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) as a generic whimpering woman whose married to the much older Javier Bardem (Skyfall). He’s some sort of author or poet but it’s not made clear. Get used to that. Then there are visitors from unknown origin who come to stay at the house, the house starts to become really creepy and things look promising. You have questions that need answering and you can trust any of the characters on screen. But then the movie never actually answers those questions, just thinking throwing more things at the screen hoping desperately that you forget those questions. The only hope you have of getting answers is to read people’s theories on the internet, but that seems like lazy film making to me to rely on your fans coming up with answers.
One thing I’m sure the movie wants to be is shocking. That’s why it presents scenes of a woman shooting people in the head and a mass crowd breaking a baby’s neck before eating said baby. These are really uncomfortable scenes for sure and they are a struggle to watch. But again this problem of these scenes having nothing to back them up becomes apparent. If you have a genuine reason for having a mass crowd killing a baby and then eating it, fair enough. Plenty will hate it anyway, but if you’ve got a point go for it. But when it appears there is very little point, I’m not sure how that scene fits in with the theory that this is humanity vs mother earth though I’m sure someone will tell me, it’s just shock for shock’s sake. It’s no better than an crappy exploitation film from the 1970s in that way.
And it’s all this which has given me this burning desire to hate this movie and all it represents. It is a movie that is not aimed at a general audience and that’s fine, niché movies are great. But this is a movie that is looking to so in-depth and have a ton of allegories rather than concentrating on the main narrative. Because that’s what a movie should be, a good narrative. It is the foundation of any movie because without it, everything else falls apart. There’s no focus on that, Aronofsky appears to just care about giving film critics something to analyse rather than enjoy. But without any a narrative where you get what is happening the allegories all fail to get off the ground.
And while I do properly loathe this movie, there is some good stuff here. As I’ve said before, the film does build well in the first third until it completely wastes all of that good work. The film is very well shot, even when making his worst film Aronofsky still makes it look incredibly good, and the performances are pretty decent too. I wish they were more varied but that is more down to the script so it’s unfair to blame the likes of Lawrence and Bardem for that. There’s plenty of contributing elements here that could have made it a good film, just a shame about the narrative.
Darren Aronofsky films have sometimes toed that line where it could just become over pretentious trying to allegorical and shocking for the sake of being allegorical and shocking arthouse schlock. This time though Aronofsky has not just crossed that line, he’s bounded over it with a massive leap. This is one of the worst movies I’ve watched for a film review because it does a lot of things for no apparent reason. It gives you a lot of shocking images which could work if you weren’t sure the reason those images were on screen were only on there to get that reaction and not for any other reason. Yes, film students and certain critics will love it because it acts far more smartly than most typical terrible movies like Transformers and Fifty Shades, but for the rest of us it will leave us perplexed. That F rating that Mother! got from CinemaScore? Far too kind.