Movie Review: MOTHER! (2018)

MOTHER! is the latest film from visionary director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) and is a heart-pounding thriller drenched in symbolism and metaphors that uses the backdrop of a marriage to show us the lengths those will go to give their all to the one they love. The film stars an array of A-list talent that includes Oscar winners Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as well as Michelle Pfieffer, Ed Harris and Kristen Wiig.

The focal point of the film falls on it’s two leads, Mother (Lawrence) and Him (Bardem), as their relationship is tested when uninvited strangers arrive at their home. Soon chaos erupts, with Lawrence trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together as the true nature of the strangers is revealed. When the trailers for the movie were released about a month ago, they gave off a Rosemary’s Baby vibe with almost little to no information on what the film was really about. For us horror fans, this sense of mystery created a level of excitement rarely seen in a day and age where trailers give away everything.

Having had a chance to see a sneak peek of it early this week, I went in with a gut feeling that MOTHER! was going to be one of the best films of the year. As someone who isn’t a huge fan of Rosemary’s Baby I was hoping that this film wouldn’t be anything resembling a remake of that, and I’m so glad to report that it isn’t. This movie is a complete and total mindfuck that will destroy you emotionally and mentally through it’s 2 hour run time. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, MOTHER! is filled to the brim with metaphors and allegories which range from religious fanaticism, political unrest, and our destruction of Earth. This is not a movie in which you can easily turn your brain off, and honestly, it’s one where you shouldn’t.

Not much is given during the first ⅔ of the film. Audiences are seeing everything unfold through the eyes of Jennifer Lawrence, who is just as confused as we all are. MOTHER! is a slow burn film and once it latches onto you it’s incredibly hard to shake off. There were times when I wanted to scream at Lawrence’s character for being so accommodating to Bardem’s male chauvinism. It was infuriating, but looking back, I can see how it all made sense. For me, this film was so much more than what appeared on the screen. Though others will interpret it the way they see fit, I found it to be extremely religious based with a focus on the way men treat women not only during Biblical times, but also in modern-day society. There was also an underlying theme of how destructive and cruel love can be. How it’s possible to give and give and give without anything receiving anything, even the same amount of love, in return.

To say that MOTHER! is unflinchingly brutal would be the understatement of the year. This is not an easy watch, especially when you get to the last third of the film. Aronofsky is known for his shockingly merciless films (Requiem is the first to come to mind) and MOTHER! is no different. However, my concern lies in the fact that because Aronofsky made a film that is so unapologetically raw and vicious, most people will not see through the superficial layer to the underlying meanings rooted at its core. Even during the screening I was at, people walked out in total disgust before the film ended; mumbling under their breath about how fucked up the film was.

Speaking of which, the film should come with a bit of a trigger warning. I don’t want to give away too much but if violence towards young children and women make you uneasy then this may be a film you want to skip. I definitely understood the context of what Aronofsky was trying to say through these two prominent scenes but god damn. I’m rarely shaken to my core, but those scenes left me feeling disturbed and uneasy long after the film had ended.

MOTHER! is not a film for everyone and there are going to be a lot of people upset and angry after viewing it. I have to hand it to Aronofsky, he doesn’t giving a flying fuck what people think about his films. He doesn’t apologize for his message and he doesn’t back down if people hate it (or him). MOTHER! is the purest film I’ve seen in years, in the sense that he never conforms it to the studio archetypes that so many mass marketed films bend to. I fully believe that MOTHER! will be the most controversial film of the year, whether that’s due to certain scenes unfolding towards the bat shit crazy ending, or the fact that it will challenge people’s patience and ideology. I truly think that everyone should see this masterpiece of a film, because whether you love it or not, it’ll elicit some time of emotion from you.

Overall, MOTHER! is the best film I have seen this year, hand’s down. Paramount Pictures and Aronofsky did a phenomenal job of keeping the film’s concept and synopsis as mysterious as possible allowing the curiosity of fans to reach a fever pitch. Would I consider this film to be horror? Absolutely. It deals with terrifying and frightening topics while also showing the cruel and sinister side of humanity. It’s not a traditional horror film by any stretch of the imagination, but it still managed to crawl under my skin and leave a lasting impression of true terror. Do not go into this movie thinking you are seeing a remake of Rosemary’s Baby or that you are going to see some tripe horror film. Let the film envelope you and keep your mind open as you are in for one hell of a turbulent ride.

MOTHER! is now in theaters nationwide from Paramount Pictures

Shannon McGrew
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