We checked out Aronofsky’s latest feature to see what all the controversy was about.
If you’ve been following the news over the past few weeks, then you know that mother! is one of the year’s most-talked about movies. With moviegoers walking out in droves during mother! screenings, and with the movie actually receiving the rare Cinemascore grade of an “F”, it’s not entirely surprising that Paramount Pictures did not screen mother! to the press here in Nashville (or anywhere outside of New York or Los Angeles for that matter) before the movie’s release.
Even so, all of us here at 615 Film went and saw mother! over the weekend, while staff contributor (and lucky dog), Scotty Wright, checked it out at the Toronto International Film Festival before its release to the public last Friday.
Is mother! atrocious? Is mother! a misunderstood masterpiece? Is mother! not for everyone?
Below, you’ll find mini reviews from each of us here at 615 Film, where we each weigh in with our ratings of mother! using our four-star system.
Scotty’s review: I saw mother! at the Toronto International Film Festival. I had very little understanding of what to expect going in. I thought it might be a horror film. For the next two hours, I couldn’t have been proven more wrong. Darren Aronofsky’s latest film plays out instead as a cleverly setup metaphor built on layers of biblical allegory and ecological metaphor. Shooting the film entirely in close up on Jennifer Lawrence’s titular character, Aronofsky’s steadfast cinematographer, Matthew Libatique, keeps us tightly wrapped up in mother’s point of view, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere of dread. mother! capitalizes on this with an epic and cataclysmic climax that is earth-shattering, pulse-pounding, and mind-numbing in a way few directors could probably visualize, let alone execute, with such power. mother! is another prime example of a simple story that is elevated by its execution, not the least of which are Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem’s magnetizing performances. This film is not for the faint of heart. Watch at your own peril. ★★★
Kevin’s review: For the duration of its marketing campaign, mother! has been advertised as a nightmarish cult film, and while it is to a certain extent, there is so much more at play in the newest film from Darren Aronofsky. The film is unsettling and tense from the first frame to the last, with a fast-editing pace, shadows that give the house a constant darkness and dread, the use of close-ups that create the same feeling of claustrophobia, confusion and fear that Jennifer Lawrence’s character has as she hears every word and creak no matter what room she ventures into, thanks to the film’s impeccable sound design and reliance on diegetic sound. But it’s Aronofsky’s direction that transcends the film from more than just a traditional cult film into an artistic narrative about the horrors of the artist’s life and a commentary on the idea of the artist as God. Of course, that can only be my opinion, because mother! is packed with ideas about marriage, celebrity, nature, and even religion, complete with subtle allegories and supernatural elements that are bizarre on paper, but make complete sense in the universe of the film, and beg to be interpreted on repeat watches. That being said, mother! can be a tough film to watch. The film devolves into absolute chaos in a second half laden with scenes of graphic violence, heinous acts of depravity, and a nightmarish turn for the surreal that could frustrate and frighten casual moviegoers. I left the theater with multiple feelings about it, and even hours later, I found myself still unsettled about what I saw, and thinking about my own life as an artist. That’s a testament to the kind of power that mother! has as a film. For those skeptical about it from bad word-of-mouth, mother! is not worth reductive dismissal; it’s worth joining the debate over, and one of the best films of the year. ★★★★
Michael’s review: mother! is one of those films that comes around every 10 years. It truly is a magnificent achievement in storytelling and directing, and should be taught in film classes for years to come. With poised direction from Darren Aronofsky and a stunning performance from Jennifer Lawrence, mother! Certainly is mesmerizing. This is one of the rare cases where the director made the movie HE wanted to make instead of what the studio wanted. mother! is definitely not for everyone, but everyone needs to see it. ★★★★
Sean’s review: Despite Paramount’s misleading marketing, mother! is not a horror movie aimed to scare you. As it turns out, mother! is a visually thought-provoking thriller that reaches levels of madness few movies have achieved in recent years. What starts off as a slow-burn, dropping hints as to what’s actually going on, quickly turns into chaotic, twisted tale that will have you thinking about Darren Aronofsky’s interpretation of a macabre series of themes long after you finish watching it. Even though the movie’s pacing stretches things out about 15 minutes too long, mother! is without question one Aronofsky’s best movies yet and features outstanding performances from both Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. And what’s the best way to experience mother!? Going into the movie not knowing a thing. ★★★
Grant’s review: I’ve seen mother! twice now. It was a movie that as soon as the credits started rolling, I immediately wanted to watch again. Aronofsky is one of the most genuinely unique directors working today, and each film he makes gets increasingly more bizarre and explores more complex themes. This is his most ambitious film to date, and it pays off. With excruciatingly calculated direction and a powerhouse cast, this film is stacked with talent to keep its heavy themes and allegories afloat. Don’t trust the marketing or critics on this film. You truly have to experience it for yourself. As a friend of mine put it, this film isn’t for everyone, but it is intended for everyone. ★★★★
Have you seen mother!? If so, what did you think? If not, do you plan on seeing it?