Review: Mother! leaves audiences unnerved

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by Madeline Wells
Northeast Editor

This article may contain spoilers

“Mother!” is 2017’s newest psychological horror film. Written and directed by filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan,” “Requiem for a Dream”), “Mother!” tests the relationship of a couple when uninvited strangers stay in their home.

Love, devotion and sacrifice are just a few of the film’s thought-provoking topics that will leave the audience unsettled with questions.

“Mother!” starts off with a quiet wife, “Mother” (Jennifer Lawrence) and her poet husband, “Him” (Javier Bardem) living peacefully in the country.

The gorgeous farmhouse the couple lives in is said to be the husband’s home that was rebuilt after a terrible fire. Lawrence’s character evidently rebuilt the house herself while supporting her husband’s stagnant career. Despite the large age difference of the two lovers, their marriage seems cute and one out of love, not lust. The character’s lives appear peaceful and harmonious in the countryside, that is, until visitors arrive.

A movie poster for “Mother!” depicts Javier Bardem with a mysterious orb.
A movie poster for “Mother!” depicts Javier Bardem with a mysterious orb.

The arrival of the new character is when the audience’s discomfort really begins to build. A supposed doctor and fan of the husband’s writing, referred to as “Man” (Ed Harris), arrives in the middle of the night looking for a place to sleep. The husband invites the stranger to stay the night without consulting his wife. The men bond over drinks while Mother suffers from slight hallucinations in another room, which she takes a mysterious yellow powder to cure.

The next day, Man’s wife, Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), arrives and causes more chaos for Mother. Woman is vivacious, blunt and disrespectful, causing Mother to reflect on her own relationship and life. The strangers continue to frustrate and disrespect Mother while her Husband begs her to let them stay because the male guest was dying and wanted to meet him. But when the Man and Woman disobediently enter the poet’s office and break his treasured crystallized object, Mother kicks them out of the house.

Suddenly the strange couple’s two sons show up to the house in uproar about their father’s will and add to the chaos. The brothers have a power struggle resulting in the death of the younger brother. A wake is held for the dead son that evening, and suddenly the house is flooded with dozens of disrespectful people. Mother continues to be gas lighted by Him, as he reassures her that everything was fine despite the obvious destruction of their home. Mother finally kicks out the unruly guests when they flood the house, and berates her husband for ignoring her for his own pleasure.

A sense of normalcy returns once all of the guests have been eradicated. Months go by and Mother is now expecting their first child, which inspires Him to create again and finish his work. When published, His piece immediately sells out and Mother prepares a special dinner in celebration. That is, until fans show up at the house to admire and celebrate Him. At first, they ask to use the bathroom, and before you know it hundreds of strangers have invaded the house again.

At this point in the movie, things start to deconstruct. The wild fans take over the house like termites and start destroying the house. Some fans have turned into a cult worshipping Him and start killing people. The military suddenly arrives to help, but they don’t actually help, and Mother is caught in the middle of everything.

The following scenes depict violence, sacrifice and cannibalism, leaving the audience unsettled and confused.

The movie has sparked controversy amongst viewers due to the violence and biblical references. The whole film is an allegory depicting “the rape and torture of mother earth” said Lawrence in an interview with The Telegraph.

Lawrence’s character is supposed to be Mother Earth, while her husband, the poet/creator, represents a form of God. Harris and Pfeiffer’s characters represent Adam and Eve, with their sons depicting Cain and Abel, with the house itself resembling the Garden of Eden at times.

The use of heightened everyday sounds throughout the movie added a dreamlike element to the movie. Every scrape, step and creak that took place in the house could be heard and resonated throughout the audience.

The minimal use of a musical score balanced well with the surreal everyday sounds creating an unsettling atmosphere.

The building of tension and gas lighting makes the audience feel as though they suffered alongside Mother (earth.) Aronofsky did a brilliant job at heightening sounds and situations to make Mother’s suffering relatable to the audience.

While not a movie for the faint hearted, “Mother!” is a physiological movie that feels like a nightmare that never stops escalating.

“Mother!” was playing at select theaters including Circle Cinema, 10 S. Lewis Ave. Circle Cinema is a local nonprofit theater that screens independent and art films. Circle Cinema offers student discounts on movies with a valid student ID.

madeline.wells@tulsacc.edu

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