Maybe prepare yourself somewhere dark and quiet to have a nice sit down after watching Mother!. You’ll appreciate the opportunity to decompress, even if you emerge with no better idea of what you’ve just watched. Darren Aronofsky’s latest is an assault. Of ideas. Of religious metaphor. Of assorted human viscera. It is a whole lot of movie.
It’s the most interesting choice Jennifer Lawrence has made since her breakout in Winter’s Bone. She gives her director blood, sweat and tears – gallons thereof. Lawrence plays a nameless young woman who lives in a remote, huge, beautiful house with her husband (Javier Bardem), a blocked writer. A few minutes into the movie he invites in a stranger (Ed Harris), then his obnoxious wife (Michelle Pfeiffer). Rapidly, the young woman’s house is taken over by people she doesn’t know, who keep wrecking her stuff, then usher in violence. That’s about the first 30 minutes. After that it escalates with rocket-like force. The woman’s nightmare takes turns you couldn’t possibly imagine, nor will necessarily understand. By the end so much has happened and the film’s world has so completely changed that it’s near impossible to believe you entered this place just two hours ago. You’ll either be laughing hysterically or mute with shock.
Crucially, throughout the building insanity Aranofsky is always in control. His world may be spinning off into chaos but it’s clear he knows where he’s going. He moves around too precisely for events to be random. We can follow Lawrence’s journey as careening psychological horror, even if we can’t make sense of its detail. Trying to piece together its greater meaning is something that can only begin after you’ve got your breath back, a few hours later.
Mother! may be remembered in years to come as a monumental mess or a masterpiece, but it will be remembered. It brings to mind films like 2001, The Shining or A Clockwork Orange, films that blur your mind with baffling images then come into focus over time. Love it or hate it, or likely lurch between the two, we should thrill that movies so ambitiously bonkers exist.