Before stepping foot into a theater to watch mother!–if you actually decide to–you must know that this film is entirely an allegory. It’s not meant to be real. It’s meant to be told from the perspective of Mother Nature. I tell you this because if you don’t know this ahead of time, most of you will not understand what’s happening and the film will alienate you before you’re able to read into it.
And there is a lot to read into. This isn’t a film to just decide to throw on. It’s a piece of work. It’s exhausting. Something that you must dedicate some time afterward reflecting upon. Otherwise the 2 hours you spend watching it will be in vain. Or you could just not watch it. Which is what I would suggest.
I don’t mind a metaphorical film. Life of Pi is one of my favorites. But with mother! there is no humanity to tether down the film. You can relate to the protagonist’s plight and suffering, maybe, but not to the protagonist herself. The characters are human in appearance, but hardly act as a human actually would. It’s void of all emotion, dragging on for way too long as you sit there, tired, waiting to find out what the point of it all is.
Jennifer Lawrence plays Mother, who’s married to Javier Bardem’s character, who’s a struggling author. They live alone in a house in the country while Bardem is amidst a creative drought. Things are disrupted when an older married couple intrude on their lives and move in. Before this couple shows up, Lawrence and Bardem’s life together is supposed to be peaceful, but director, Darren Aronofsky, doesn’t really depict it this way. In fact, there is tension and suspense even before the couple shows up.
From there, a series of wild and nauseating events occur that I can’t even fully explain. It basically goes through the story of mankind from Adam and Eve to the apocalypse. It’s 2 hours, but feels like 3. It’s pretentious and honestly, not a film that should be widely distributed. There are art houses for a reason.
Aronofsky is creating an exploitation as someone must actually believe. If he didn’t, he would have no film. Why would he try to satirize followers of a being he doesn’t believe in.
The film isn’t an attack on Christians as much as it is an attack on those who claim to be Christian without knowing why. If it were an attack on Christians, it wouldn’t make much sense because then the film fails to show us what happens to those Christians who do obey and love their Creator. In his vision, there are no good people whatsoever. It depicts followers as mindless, yet doesn’t show what their reward is once they die. It doesn’t show the counterargument.
The metaphor, here, is taken too literally that, at times, we end up laughing at the ridiculousness or becoming frustrated with Lawrence’s willingness to put up with all this for as long as she does.
With all of it so carefully crafted, Aronofsky makes one mistake. Mother Nature isn’t in the Bible. In fact, it seems that he’s made Mother Nature and Mary, the Blessed Mother, as one in the same. Which wouldn’t make much sense because Mary is depicted as patient and kind, constantly vouching for humans’ actions, while his Mother Nature is wrathful and protective of Earth rather than the people living on it.
With films like Life of Pi, the main character is an actual human. We go through the entire film thinking that these events could have actually happened, only to find out at the end that perhaps it was all a metaphor.
mother! is different. The events in this film are so bizarre that we know they’re impossible. Not in a sci-fi kind of way, because a good sci-fi makes you feel like the events could actually happen. The metaphor in mother! is taken way too literally that nothing feels realistic. We sit there waiting for a human reason for why everything is happening, but we slowly get less of one. Metaphors only work when you can relate on a human level. This has the opposite of that.
The film is interesting enough until the second half, when Aronofsky decides to plummet the viewer into his own opinion of religion and Christians, themselves. Bardem’s character writes a piece of work (the Gospels), which is terribly misunderstood by his fans, causing them to go crazy and turn his house into a living hell.
The problem is, Aronofsky is criticizing people for acting upon a misunderstanding, yet he gives us something that is so abstract that it almost begs for us to misunderstand it.
He gives us a, many would say, sacrilegious piece of work all while criticizing those who exploit God. So is he condemning people? Or is he trying to leave it open to interpretation, himself exploiting the Creator?
The worst part is, if a filmmaker wanted to prove these points, he could have done so without making it so head-scratching and convoluted. Maybe then, the audience could actually understand his point. Because this film, unlike the Bible, isn’t significant enough for people to spend their lives trying to figure it out.