Cinematic Releases: mother! (2017) Reviewed

The scariest questions are those without a clear answer. 

The origins of our existence and the mysteries of the beyond remain obfuscated behind religious theory, scientific exploration, and cultural folklore.  Darren Aronofsky's disquieting masterpiece mother! is a phantasmagoric fable about the nature of humanity and a terrifying rebuke of modern sociopolitical customs.  This is a film that uses every available element at its disposal to elicit a spectrum of response from an unsuspecting audience to deliver one of the most shocking and mystifying cinematic experiences of the century.  

A young mother creates a country paradise with her older husband by refurbishing a house in the middle of nowhere.  The arrivals of guests upset the tranquility of the home, leading to apocalyptic consequences for everyone involved.  Jennifer Lawrence gives one of the best performances of her career, abandoning the rigid dramatics of her latter films and harnessing the raw, dangerous vulnerability that she first displayed in Winter's Bone.  Everything else is merely a fixture within Lawrence's maternal orbit and this is done so with malicious intent.  Matthew Libatique's gripping cinematography abandon's any notion of personal space in favor of voyeuristic violation, placing the viewer over the shoulder of the film's harried matron.  The camerawork and taut editing are essential ingredients, ensuring that the first act is pure claustrophobic dread that builds a meticulous prison of biblical allegory around Lawrence as she desperately tries to defend her domain. 

Javier Bardem gives a wonderfully narcissistic turn as the poet at the center of the mayhem, endlessly inviting supplicants into their matrimonial sanctuary despite his partner's protest. To expound would spoil, but what initially seems like an odd pairing, slowly, irrevocably reveals itself to be a match of totemic representation and manmade idolatry. Symbolism is everywhere, from a random hopping toad to an all to obvious head wound, but everything works in perfect concert under Aronofsky's maniacal command, ushering the terseness of the first act towards a finale that is absolutely one of the most unforgettable and accusatory sequences in cinematic history.   

We're here to look pretty and creep the hell out of you!
Did it work?

Aronofsky channels Bunuel and Pasolini, as opposed to the expected Polanski homages, creating a hysterical parable that resonates in America’s current political climate.  Science, or rather nature, and the deities of men face off in a tableau of sex, violence, and the perversion of intentions, creating a Bosch-esque aesthetic that will surely haunt the mind for days to come.  This is the core dissent of mother! Whatever assumptions we as a species bring to interpretation, be it art or the word of gods is tainted by personal experience, ensuring that unity is a pipedream, destined to be played out and endlessly repeated on a cosmic level for eons to come. 

A symbolic recreation of history, both biblical and environmental, mother! redefines the boundaries of what is permissible with respect to both presentation and exploration, using extreme, flesh and blood representations to symbolize the destruction of both the material and ethereal.  The hubris of gods, artists, and those who consume their dogma are on display and Aronofsky dares to reflect the darkness of humanity back onto the audience, pleading for reason to prevail in a union of faith and science.  mother! is the rare viewing experience that demands to be seen in the cinema, on the largest screen possible, not for overwhelming effects or action sequences, but for the awful truth that monsters sit among you in the dark.  


-Kyle Jonathan