It’s hard to talk about a film like Mother! without feeling like you’re giving something away. I’m going to try to avoid spoilers here (not that I think Mother! really CAN be spoiled) but this film is so specific yet ambiguous that any discussion might color your perceptions going in. If you’re planning on seeing this and want the very full experience, don’t read this review, just go see the film. THEN read it and see if you agree. Me, I had been warned going in – this is a weird weird film. Personally I liked it but the other people in the theater did not; I definitely heard some grumbling from the other patrons as I left.
This movie is so well made and so difficult to watch, for so many reasons. I feel like Mother! is trying to be more than just entertaining and it made each choice with absolute confidence. Every detail was so obviously deliberate and made by someone who knows filmmaking better than I do. Not just Darren Aronofsky, everyone involved in this movie. The casting was perfect – Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem had the exact right chemistry (which was not actually ‘good’ chemistry). Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer were likewise fantastic and their chemistry was great.
At 121 minutes, Mother! was too long. Maybe it needed to be slow, maybe not, but it felt like a long film. Aside from that the pacing was beautiful, the way events progressed from one tone to another was so gradual you barely notice. At first. I loved the little details too, the visual clues that things were not quite right, things were not quite what they should be. Visually it was effective, though not always pleasant. The whole hand-held tight focus camera thing drove me insane. I mean, I know why they did it (something to do with the emotional tone of the movie – you’ll see) beautiful where it needs to be beautiful, claustrophobic where it needs to be claustrophobic, psychotic where it needed to be psychotic. In every shot, in every scene, the camera work perfectly enhanced the mood.
If they can stay till the end, Mother! is the type of movie you can talk about with your friends and everyone will have a theory. In my opinion, the key to understanding Mother! is simple: things portrayed in this film were not meant to be taken literally. It’s symbolism, kids, metaphors – things being understood in the context of other things. If you view it like that, it works. I suppose you could take everything as factually coherent and work out an interpretation based on that, but honestly, it works so well as a symbolic film. Its dream logic is flawless and if you accept the fact that everything there represents something else, you can figure out what was going on. It has it’s own consistency, though it takes the entire film to learn it.
So is Mother! worth watching? Yes, most definitely, if you’re into strange thinky movies. Obviously not for everyone. I’m glad I saw it and I’ll see this movie again- I suspect it’s one of those ones that makes sense the more times you see it. Plus I couldn’t stop thinking about it afterwards, which hasn’t happened in a while. The urge to figure out what exactly actually happened is powerful and once you start questioning your assumptions, there’s no end of whacky theories you can come up with. But at the end of the day, it’s not your thinking brain that will understand this film.