Darren Aronofsky returns with his latest offering, mother!, a dark fantasy thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as the two lead characters her and him, respectively. The story is about a writer and his girlfriend who have to try and deal with a constant influx of strangers to their house. The film explores the institution of religion with the backdrop of a serene country home in the wilderness to visually contrast with the chaos that transpires inside the house.
The film opens with a slightly jarring and confusing sequence of a woman burning alive and a house being reborn after the fire has died out. As we awaken with Jennifer Lawrence, the viewer is then treated to a very subjective film that is shown through her perspective entirely, and only from inside the house itself. This continues as her bewilderment translates very effectively to the audience, and the ‘guests’ that Javier Bardem is inviting into the house only become more and more hostile towards Lawrence. The first person let into the house, played by Ed Harris, is somewhat apprehensive and almost eager to leave, until his wife is introduced to be Michelle Pfeiffer.
Up to this point the film makes a deliberate attempt to hide any sort of names of the characters from the audience as it would seem they are unimportant because of the message the film is trying to convey. While unclear up to this point, it is made crystal as both Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer’s two children arrive and begin to fight very aggressively with one another over rights in a will.
The point of view of the camera itself is also very deliberate in this film as most of the shots with Lawrence and Bardem are shot in such a way that it is never over Bardem’s shoulder, only a close-up of Lawrence and over her shoulder, again reinforcing the perspective of the film, one which cinematographer Matthew Libatique—who previously worked on both Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream to name a few—clearly worked hard on. As we see the house that the couple is in as being idyllic and tranquil by day but insidious and foreboding at night; this theme continues with more horrifying imagery as the film progresses and paint the house in a very orange tone and nearly blood red at times, which contrasts with the very hot blues that are shown briefly when there tries to be some semblance of order in the house among rooms and rooms full of anarchy. All of these moments are highlighted by the fact that Lawrence is rarely seen with Bardem throughout most of the film and when she is with him it seems to be a moment of clarity in a sea of chaos, despite their constantly degenerating relationship.
With a story that seems nonsensical because of its barely grounded reality and highly subjective point of view, mother! manages to shock, and amaze all at once. Both Lawrence and Bardem are truly putting in some of their best work thus far in the film and with Aronofsky’s stellar direction combined with Libatique’s extremely fitting cinematography they combine to make one extremely potent film that will have audiences talking for weeks after they have already left the theater.