Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer and Donhnall Gleeson
Released 15th September 2017 (UK)
Three years after bringing the biblical epic Noah to the big screen, Darren Aronofsky makes his highly-anticipated return to his roots with the unnerving body horror Mother!. With an all-star cast including Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pheiffer and Domhnall Gleeson, the story concerns a married couple living in a beautiful but isolated rural home, who find their domestic bliss is shattered following the arrival of a stranger on their doorstep. A spiritual successor to 2010’s Black Swan, there’s no doubt that Mother! Is Aronofsky’s most challenging film yet, and is likely to polarise viewers in much the same way as his previous work.
Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play the couple which the story revolves around – Bardem is a poet, and Lawrence his loving wife, who has spent months painstakingly restoring their home from the ground up. Her dreams of living an idyllic domestic life with her husband are shattered following the arrival of a stranger in the form of Ed Harris, and slowly but surely, her entire world is thrown into disarray. It’s difficult to say much more about Mother!’s plot without spoiling the surprise – this is the sort of film that really must be seen to be believed.
Mother! builds slowly, creating a powerful sense of dread within you that mirrors the discomfort Lawrence’s character feels, growing from a niggling sense of unease to all-out psychological warfare. Drawing on ancient mythology to form its plot, it’s certain that the trailers do not give anything away of Mother!’s true nature, which reveals itself slowly, setting out as a conventional horror but quickly developing into an assault on the senses quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
Lawrence plays against type as a vulnerable and naïve newlywed, who moves slowly and carefully, as though in a dream. It’s often impossible to tell reality from fantasy within Mother! which makes you question the story throughout, a nightmarish allegory about women with religious (and sacrilegious) overtones. It’s her film to command, and she does so commendably – it’s impossible to not care for her, so beaten and worn down by the events that unfold within the house she loves. As we see events unfold from her perspective, we experience her anxiety and uncertainty, which builds to a shocking climax.
Comparisons are likely to be drawn between Mother! and Rosemary’s Baby, and in many ways Mother! feels like a spiritual sibling to Polanski’s 1968 film, not least because Lawrence’s vulnerability evokes memories of Mia Farrow’s startling turn as Rosemary Woodhouse. Ultimately difficult film to digest, and unlike any other horror film released in recent years, Aronofsky fans will undoubtedly be satisfied by his return to the challenging sort of work which made his name. It’s his most conceptual film to date and demonstrates what a gift Aronofsky has for the truly absurd.