“Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshipping.” – Hurbert Reeves
mother! Is the latest film by the daring writer/director Darren Aronofsky, starring a talented cast including the main characters played by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. Marketing for the film has been enigmatic, the trailers giving away the bare minimum, which already creates questions and debate before the film is even out. Going into mother! I already had high expectations due to the fact that Aronofsky is one of my favourite writers/directors and was indeed the writer and director of the 2010 psychological thriller Black Swan, which in my eyes is a masterpiece. The trailers almost hinted towards a sort of psychological mind game played on Lawrence’s character, a Rosemary’s Baby sort of rip-off, or perhaps something to do with a cult. But what I got from mother! was much more than that, instead, Aronofsky has exceeded himself again and has created a work of art that will be spoken about for years to come.
SERIOUS SPOILERS AHEAD
I’m not going to waste time explaining every detail because if you haven’t seen the film, you need to see it before you read this review/analysis. Instead, I’m just going to jump straight into it. Lawrence’s character is Mother Nature, and Bardem who plays her husband is God. The house that they live in represents the earth, and more specifically, Bardem’s character’s writing room is the Garden of Eden. Make sense?
(I’m going to refer to Lawrence and Bardem’s characters from now on as Mother and God)
We begin before human civilisation.
‘Baby?’ is the first words Mother speaks in the film after she wakes up and notices that her husband is not beside her. This immediately struck me as important, obviously because of the association of the title of the film mother! and baby as in a child. And this word is a sort of foreshadowing for the most critical point of the film and the catalyst for the climax.
We are given a sort-of tour of the beautiful secluded house that they live in. Its layout is circular, like of course, the earth (sorry flat-earthers!) and ultimately, the endless circle of destruction and creation. This not only gives the desired effect of representing the earth through its shape but also immediately creates a sense of dizziness for the audience, as the camera spins around to follow the characters weaving through each room.
We soon learn that Mother has recently rebuilt and redecorated their house since it burnt down in a fire. When she presses her hands to the walls, she can feel and envision a heartbeat. The house is incredibly important to her like a child, and she takes great pride in maintaining it. God is a poet who is struggling to get started on his new work, and this is proving to cause tension between the two. The doorbell rings. To Mother, this is a stranger. But God seems more than happy to let him into their house and give him a bed for the night despite Mother’s small protests. This character is Adam, the first man, and soon will come, Eve.
Mother is becoming increasingly more stressed as these two strangers move into her house and mess with her hard work, her clean surroundings and question her about her relationship with her husband and why they haven’t had kids. Mother is pushed aside by God, but soon enough, Adam and Eve go into the writing room and touch God’s most prized possession, the forbidden fruit, the crystal rock that he claims he saved from the fire when the house burnt down. They drop the crystal and it shatters, angering God and banishing them from his office, aka The Garden of Eden, and Mother finally thinks she might be able to get God to tell them to leave. But he doesn’t. And in fact, more and more people begin entering their house, obsessed with God and his poems. And despite the fact that Mother just wants to be alone with God, he loves the attention and adoration of the people. Soon Mother is pregnant, with of course what will be Jesus, and Mother is hopeful that they will finally get some time together. But this doesn’t happen, and Mother is pushed to breaking point as a literal war breaks out in her home. Everything is destroyed. People are everywhere. There are riots. Police brutality. Mass worship.
And then she begins to go into labour.
The tension that Aronskfy creates in this climax of the film is unreal. God and Mother stare each other out, with Mother determined not to let God hold Jesus and show him to the people. But eventually, she falls asleep, and in a flash, God has taken their son to the people for them to pass around. Mother is hysterical, weaving through hoards of people to get her baby back. And then, in perhaps the most shocking part of the film, his neck breaks. The people have killed her baby, have killed Jesus, and are now eating pieces his tiny body. Mother is naturally distraught and tries attacking the people, but God tells her to forgive them. They attack Mother, almost killing her before God makes them stop. A bruised and battered Mother begs God to tell them all to go, ‘they don’t listen to me’ she cries, a haunting reflection on the climate change and the blind damage we are doing to the earth.
The film is, of course, a commentary on how we as people have treated the earth. How blind faith is dangerous. It’s also a commentary on women in society, who are either goddesses, mothers, or whores. Or all three. It’s speaking on the idea of celebrity worship and the intrusion of privacy. It’s probably got even more messages to find than just those, and that’s what is so great about this film. It’s a discussion. There is no simple beginning middle and end because the film stays with the audience after they’ve left the cinema. It makes you question. And that’s my favourite part about it.
There are mirrors of Black Swan throughout this film, homages to Rosemary’s Baby and the surrealist classic, The Exterminating Angel. The performances of Lawrence and Bardem are powerful and strong throughout, and incredibly believable. The cinematography is stunning, the muted, ‘earthy’ (see what I did there) tones, the close-ups on Lawrence’s face and the disorientating camera work really puts you in the place of Mother and her confusion, her panic, her exhaustion. I had a lump in my throat from beginning to end. And I’m still not sure what that yellow liquid was, but I’m going to have a lot of fun researching it.
Psycho Cinderella’s Rating – 10/10
Tell me what you thought of mother! In the comments!