TL;DR – I have rarely left a movie being this angry, a pure waste of everyone’s time, if I was not reviewing this film I would have walked out before it ended.
Score – 1.5 out of 5 stars
Well look, I know mother! has been getting some great reviews, but just to prepare you if you didn’t see the score above, this is not going to be one of them. I know there is a trend for people to give bad reviews to popular films as clickbait, this is not one of those cases, I deeply disliked this film, and if you want to know why feel free to keep reading.
To set the scene, we are in a big house somewhere in a rural setting and Him (Javier Bardem) walks through a burnt house and places a crystal on a stand. From here all the burnt building begins to revert back to the house that was and Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) wakes from her bed. Here we learn that Him is a famous poet that has been suffering from writer’s block, while Mother has been slowly rebuilding their house after a fire burnt it down. They seem to be living a normal life when Man (Ed Harris) arrived at their door one night thinking that their house was a BnB. Him didn’t want Man to rough it so he lets him stay overnight, without asking Mother first. Well overnight some weird things start to happen and they get more complicated in the morning when Man’s wife Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) appears and Him invites them to stay long term, once again without asking Mother, and they are very ungrateful guests and the movie gets weirder from here.
So before I want to dial into the things I didn’t like about mother!, I’m just going to take a moment to talk about the things that did work, and there are frankly some really good aspects of the film. First, because there is no musical score, so every single sound becomes more highlighted, and thankfully the whole soundscape is amazing. Jóhann Jóhannsson who scored Arrival (review) is credited as a sound consultant, and you can see his impact, and while I completely dislike large aspects of this film, the sound team truly did earn their inevitable Oscar nomination/s. As well as this, Jennifer Lawrence’s acting is amazing, so much of the film is from her perspective, and a lot of it is filmed in extreme close up where there is nowhere to hide, and she nails it. On top of this, the cinematography is phenomenal in places. But none of these fantastic elements saves what is a truly frustrating and awful film. Ok so now let’s start talking about the things that didn’t work but to go that there will now be full [SPOILERS] ahead.
Now I have to say at the start of the film I was really intrigued, that moment when you realise that the no music was not just for that opening scene, but they were committing to it for the whole movie. As well as this, there were numerous tracking shots and stunning cinematography, and the mood of the film was really unnerving. From the first ten minutes I was wondering if I was going to see a movie that rivalled Get Out (review), instead what I got was another poor A Cure For Wellness (review), stuff just happens and the film expects you to go along with it. I when I say stuff what I mean is rape, multiple murders, ritual sacrifice and cannibalism of a new born baby, you know the usual stuff. I have seen a lot of things in a movie, but that moment when the baby was being passed over the crowd and you knew what was about to happen was repulsive, and I would recommend you not going to see it for that scene alone.
Now the content is one thing, but also the structure of the film is a problem because it is both predictable, and exhausting. Because of the techniques used in the film, the lack of music, the increased focus on sound effects, and the intimate – almost voyeuristic – focus of the camera work as we see it all from Mother’s perspective, well it hurts the film in the long run. This is because there is no let-up, no release of tension, so there is nothing but tension, which then actually makes mother! become quite boring. Throughout the film you go from intrigued to unnerved, to disturbed, to exhausted, to board. To add on to this, it doesn’t take long to work out what is happening, and the movie pretty much gives away the ending from the start, so there is no suspense as to where we will end up.
Now I have already seen think pieces written that say that those who don’t like mother! just don’t get the film and its narrative. Now I’m sorry that is just not true, I got the religious references, Cain and Able, Adam and Eve, the eating of the Forbidden Fruit, Revelation, the two judgements of water and fire, the very literal transubstantiation, indeed it is painfully obvious who Him and Mother represent and the relationship between them that the story is portraying. Just me you can get this film and still hate it.
In the end, can we recommend mother! no, and that shouldn’t be a shock at this point in the reviews. Don’t waste your time on this film, I had a free ticket to see it and I felt that I wasted my free ticket and my time, and I wasted the time of all the talented people that put together this awful film. Indeed I was not alone in this assessment, as people were filing out of the theatre one person next to me said to their partner “If I could walk to the counter and ask for a refund of my ticket I would” and to them I completely agree.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of mother!
Directed by – Darren Aronofsky
Written by – Darren Aronofsky
Sound Consultant – Jóhann Jóhannsson
Cinematography by – Matthew Libatique
Edited by – Andrew Weisblum
Starring – Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, Kristen Wiig & Stephen McHattie
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 18A; Germany: 16; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 18; United States: R