Review: mother! (2017) (Seeing Is Believing…)


“You scared me”

mother! has courted a lot of controversy since it was first screened for the Venice Film Festival. It holds the crooked honour of an F Cinemascore, a score reserved only for the very awful films. It’s bombed at the box office after some questionable marketing. Paramount had to release a statement defending the release of the film! It’s not very often you see that happening. I saw a trailer for it that was laughable. However, nothing would stop me from seeing another Darren Aronofsky film. After missing Noah, I couldn’t let Aronofsky down! And what I witnessed was something I’ll never forget.

Ostensibly, mother! is about a couple. The wife, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is renovating her husband’s house after a fire killed his first wife and gutted most of the house. Her husband, played by Javier Bordem, is a famous poet, struggling with writer’s block. Their uneasy relationship is interrupted by a doctor (played by his Ed Harris) and his wife (played by Michelle Pfeiffer). To spoil much more would to be spoil your experience of the movie.

“So, you’re not just a pretty face”

People’s reaction to this movie!

Be aware: this is not the film you’ve been marketed. You’d think it was another haunted house horror going off the trailers. Perhaps Aronofsky wanted to mislead the audience to give them a true surprise in an era where trailers show us most of the movie. Or perhaps the marketing executives didn’t know how to sell it, so sold it as an autumn horror. There’s horror, alright, but not the typical jump scare horror you know (and love?). It’s more along the lines of a psychological horror, in the vein of Aronofsky’s Black Swan or Rosemary’s Baby. Be aware of surrealism, symbolism, and descending into madness as the film descends into madness.

I’ll make this clear: I found myself more terrified by mother! than I did by IT. Of course, it’s hard to compare the two as they are completely different. But IT seemed to scare the majority of people by dressing up jump scares with a clown. mother! presents existence as terror, wholly unpleasant and seat-gripping. We follow Jennifer Lawrence (only known as ‘mother’ in the credits) as we followed Natalie Portman and Mickey Rourke in their respective Aronofsky films. Following her, feeling her unease and descent, is a tense experience. It’s from her point of view for the entire film, and you’re dragged in to her existence. Lawrence plays it perfectly in possibly her best role since Winter’s Bone (oh, scratch that: since Silver Lining Playbook).

And not to spoil anything, but the final act is an exhausting experience, an exercise in testing the audience’s patience and endurance that pays off wonderfully. That’s how you should feel after a “horror” film: exhausted. Although this isn’t a horror film in the traditional sense, Aronofsky picks and chooses horror movie tropes beautifully. It takes on a Kafkaesque sense of horror, where the horror is the illogic of other people (and the intimacy of other people). There’s disturbing imagery that will stick in the memory for a long time. One scene may be seen as going too far, but sometimes the shock factor is wholly necessary. It’s relentless. I felt like I’d gone fifteen rounds with Mike Tyson!

“I want to make a paradise”

Kafka would be proud of Aronofsky!

It’s rare for a movie to provoke such striking reactions. During my viewing, an old couple laughed derisively all the way throughout it, a woman tutted loudly during the final act, and one person walked out halfway through. And there were less than ten people in the cinema! The old couple laughed as they walked out at the end; the man said it was a load of old cobbles. I felt like asking each person what they felt. Because from the look on other people’s faces, they didn’t like mother!. However, I loved it. It’s something completely different. It’s a film that tested my patience as well as my stomach, but I always felt rewarded for it. Films are supposed to be provocative, aren’t they? Films are evoke a wide range of reactions (even in one person), aren’t they?

I’ve found it hard to really explain my feelings about mother! without spoiling it. Maybe I’ll do a spoiler-filled review about it. But I felt oppressed, relieved, taunted, teased, terrorized, baffled, and hit over the head by a sledgehammer by mother!. It’s one of the most draining experiences I’ve had at the cinema this year (and that includes that hour long hostage scene in Detroit). There was sweat on my brow by the end! But, suffice to say, I loved it. It’s exactly why I go to the cinema: for something different, for something challenging. And yes, some may find it more challenging than they want. You can understand what’s going on, all the symbolism/allegories, and still hate it. I can understand why people wouldn’t like mother!. But for me, I couldn’t ask for anything more for my ten pound cinema ticket.

VERDICT: 9/10. mother! is a visceral experience, one you won’t forget for a long time. It’s one I won’t forget, and it’s one I loved. This is why I go to the cinema: to be poked, prodded, provoked and taunted.

What did you think of mother! (2017)? Leave your thoughts/comments below!

Click here for my review of Aronofsky’s The Wrestler (2008)

5 thoughts on “Review: mother! (2017) (Seeing Is Believing…)

  1. The Grim Reader September 22, 2017 / 9:50 pm

    I want to see this. I agree with you about IT. I liked it, but the jump scares were tedious and there was no tension, feeling of dread anywhere in the movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hammy Reviews September 23, 2017 / 9:50 am

      Yeah, IT really disappointed me in the scare category! The kids kept the film together though.
      But mother!…still thinking about it now!


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