Review: Mother!

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80%
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Great

Great performances and a unique creative direction means that this disturbing thriller will live long in the mind.

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Darren Aronofsky has gained wide recognition for his psychological thrillers with the director receiving high praise for 2010’s unnerving Black Swan. Now, the American filmmaker brings us his most mind-bending movie to date with the ambitious and unsettling Mother!

The film takes place in a large home in the countryside which has been restored by an unnamed husband and wife, credited only as Him (Javier Bardem) and Mother (Jennifer Lawrence), who are trying to create a paradise for themselves. Things begin to take a turn for the couple when a strange man (Ed Harris) and his partner (Michelle Pfieffer) take up residence at the house thanks to the husband’s generosity. As more and more people begin to show up at the couple’s residence, Mother begins to lose control of her surroundings spiralling down a terrifying path that threatens to destroy everything around her.

Although that all may sound very vague, the less you know about Mother! going into it the better. The film is filled with hidden meaning and metaphors that will no doubt leave many with more questions than answers come the end credits. Although it’s not always clear exactly what’s going on in the film, the more basic direction of the plot and the ever-present underlying tension is sure to keep audiences intrigued as to what will happen next.

Jennifer Lawrence, who is surprisingly great in this role, finds herself in the unprecedented position of having her home filled with rude, intrusive strangers. Her character labours the entire film in an attempt to please her egotistical husband but receives no thanks for her actions and is instead cast aside by all those around her. Aronofsky successfully creates a horribly intense atmosphere throughout the film, with certain parts of the first portion moving so quickly that you feel uneasy at Mother’s painful lack of control. The distinct lack of soundtrack also serves to benefit the film’s unsettling feel as sound effects such as fire alarms and use of loud, overlapping dialogue causes further discomfort at the ensuing disorder.

Bardem matches Lawrence’s performance as the charming Him with the actor bringing a definite falseness to his character that leaves you suspicious despite his popularity amongst the strangers and seeming ability to do no wrong. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfieffer are also excellent as the first strangers to come to the house with Pfieffer in particular doing an excellent job at making things feel uncomfortable for Mother and in turn the audience.

Whilst the first two acts of the movie certainly offer more clarity as to what is actually going on, the final chunk is where things get really crazy. A breath-taking sequence in the final half an hour sees Mother frantically running around her house as mayhem just unfolds all around, leaving her powerless. Aronofsky pulls no punches with this final act, as Mother! contains some incredibly disturbing imagery that will surely shock even the most hardened viewers.

It’s no understatement to say that Mother! will be one of 2017’s most divisive films as its controversial content and clouded meaning will leave audiences either loving or hating it. Whilst many may say that this is no more than an Aronofsky self-indulgence project, there is no denying that the director has tapped into the mind of the audience to create an unsettling, yet brilliant, film that is sure to linger in your mind long after the credits roll.

Mother!, directed by Darren Aronofsky, is distributed in the UK by Paramount Pictures, certificate 18.

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