An Arguing With Myself Review: mother!

October 4, 2017 Author: Chris Frodel

A house that’s seemingly cut off from the rest of the world finds an unnamed poet (Javier Bardem) looking to write his next masterpiece as his also unnamed wife (Jennifer Lawrence) remodels and decorates their home. All tranquility is disrupted when another couple (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) enter their lives. Soon after, chaos ensues.

Darren Aronofsky’s, latest, mother! is a divisive film. Some call it pretentious, others praise it as a breath of fresh air. My views on it fall somewhere in between. I’m not by any stretch of the imagination a “scholarly” fellow. There have been films that infuriated me because I felt like I was the only one in a room that didn’t “get it”. Like I wasn’t in on the joke, so to speak. Yet, I do like films that challenge my intellect. A walking contradiction, if you will. I got something from mother!, even if I didn’t realize it, until the end.

Without spoiling the experience, I’m going to tell you what I thought the film was about…Ready?…Creating. That’s it. Hence, the title “mother!”. The first half of the film plays out as a straight story. Javier seems to have writer’s block and we’re to believe that’s why he and his wife are isolated in this house. Already a published poet, he desperately needs a follow up. He needs to create his next poem. Jennifer has remodeled their home to the tiniest of details. She is also Javier’s muse/inspiration. It becomes apparent, through the intrusive nature of their guests (more specifically, Michelle) that Jennifer desperately wants a child. Before you know it, they get their wish. She becomes pregnant and the words flow effortlessly into his greatest work. Once they get what they want, the film becomes a different animal. The drama becomes a suspense-fueled fever dream. A barrage of the senses until a pressure is released in its final moments. There’s good reason the film’s title has an exclamation point on the end.

As with the creative process, it can take on a life of it’s own. Once put forth into the world, it’s out of your control. The same can be said about creating a life. The only thing you can do is nurture it and hope for the best. You can equate mother! with Aronofsky’s film work. He has a vision and makes the film he wants. Whether his vision is clear or you interpret it differently, it’s up to the viewer. At that point it’s out of his hands.

mother! is beautifully filmed. The camerawork throughout was like a dance partner with the actors. Following closely with every turn. The acting is wonderfully executed. I believe Aronofsky chooses his actors wisely. They are more than capable of what’s asked of them. I’d compare this with Aronofsky’s 2006 ethereal film, The Fountain, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachael Weisz with the grounded reality of Black Swan. Also, I’m reminded of Silent House, starring Elizabeth Olsen. A film that could easily be part of a double-feature with mother! Was it marketed in a way, you didn’t know what to expect? Probably. But knowing who the director is, did you expect a typical Hollywood film? I’m grateful Darren Aronofsky can stand out from the rest of his contemporaries. Who wants to be known as “just like everyone else”?

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