mother Mia! The Madness and the Genius of Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!”

By Christian DiMartino

By now you’re probably aware that Jennifer Lawrence has a new movie out called mother!. You may also be aware that Lawrence and the film’s director are currently dating and began doing so during the production. Most of all, you have probably heard that mother! is driving people insane. The madness has begun…

I should’ve written a review as soon as I saw it, but I couldn’t. Because mother! is a different kind of experience. It’s a film that appears to be (despite its bizarre touches) pretty cut and dry. That is, until the last half hour kicks in. It’s at that point in which we’re sent into a whole new milky way of weird, and by the time the films ends, you will question just what it is you have seen, and what it all means.

It became clear to me in that final half hour (and especially in the last ten minutes) that people were either going to go along with Aronofsky (the mad genius behind Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream, and The Wrestler, three of my favorite movies) and his delirious vision… or they were going to look at it with distaste, throw popcorn, storm out, and ask for their money back. I get a hunch that this was such a case, and it became quite clear as soon as I heard the news that mother! received a rare “F” from Cinemascore. This news led me to this article, because I need to set the record straight.

mother! is one bizarre film. It begins strangely, and just gets even weirder, until Aronofsky performs the unthinkable in the final act. The “unthinkable” being… well, I wouldn’t dream of ruining it. Because when it happens, you will be so disturbed, and so shocked, as I was. In fact, in that moment, I questioned just how I felt about the experience, as one of my best friends starting gagging next to me. The word on the street was that Aronofsky had outdone himself in terms of insanity, and I wasn’t convinced of this UNTIL this scene. Yet it was that very moment that proved it all. It also became clear that if people weren’t already on board with this movie, then they were probably going to run for the exit. It’s utterly horrific, and unlike anything you have ever seen, nor will ever see again.

My jaw hit the floor, and I had to drag it out with me. It left me utterly mortified. And yet… and yet… here I am typing, and here I am making my boldest statement in a while: the more and more I think about mother!, the more its genius becomes clear. And, AND, I’m thinking it, so I feel the need to say it: mother! is the best damn movie I have seen all year.

People will think I am mad, and you can go ahead. Maybe I am. Yet despite the hate the film is getting and will get (lord knows about the box-office results), it is a complete masterpiece. To further, it’s the most audacious, creative, ambitious, and boldest film I have seen in years, and Paramount Pictures has gained a huge amount of respect from me for not only taking on a project like this, but also for taking on last year’s overlooked masterpiece, Silence.

Yet that F score remains, and yet my opinion remains too. So what gives? Who is in the wrong? Well, nobody, because film is subjective. This is a film that is meant to start a ruckus. A film that is meant to spark conversations. A film that is open to interpretations. A film that sets out to make you feel uneasy, dazed, and puzzled. A film that isn’t “cut and dry.” A film that sets out to start a commotion… and yet that’s part of its genius. Why must everything be so simple? As an avid moviegoer, I love a great challenge, and Aronofsky has given us so much “movie” here that it might be too much for some.

I saw mother! Thursday night. Me, being a devoted Aronofsky fan, had been waiting three long years for this film, which was pretty much shrouded in secrecy up until its release at the Venice film festival. At said film festival, the film was met with both applause and boos, and it was then that I was even more excited. Because Aronofsky has never made a movie for “everyone.” He makes the movies he wants to make, and, to put it simply, he doesn’t give a f**k (if the last ten minutes of mother! didn’t make that abundantly clear). There was supposed to be a large group with us, but thankfully there wasn’t, because I wouldn’t have wanted to argue with anyone.

mother!, at its heart, is a biblical allegory, but yet it is so ambitious that it doesn’t stop there. The film is being pitched as a horror movie, but it isn’t so. However, it is just very strange. Too strange. But once you see it and reflect on the experience, what Aronofsky is really doing here should become abundantly clear. That does, however, requite the viewer to make a giant leap.

Lawrence, the Oscar-winning it-girl of Silver Linings Playbook and The Hunger Games, gives the performance of her career here. She is pretty much front and center, with the camera always on her. For pretty much every second. We feel her fear, her irritation, and her confusion. This is the kind of performance that requires an actress of great nuance, and we get that here. Michelle Pfeiffer is brief, but steals every scene. Javier Bardem, in sort of a thankless role, is phenomenal.

So yes, the acting is great, and the film is flawlessly crafted. As is the cinematography, and the sound. Yet the reason why I responded so immensely to mother! is because like the majority of Aronofsky’s films, it’s a product of go-for-broke ambition. So with that, it must also be mentioned that Aronofsky’s reach never exceeds his grasp. He has tried a lot of things with mother!, and he succeeds on all accounts. The beauty of it lies in the fact that you don’t even truly realize what tricks Aronofsky has up his sleeve until its over.

As disturbed as I was by the last ten minutes, I have since given it thought and it doesn’t quite bother me the same. Because as it’s happening, Aronofsky comes across as a sick puppy. But in the grand scheme of things, it all makes sense. You will either go with it, or you won’t. I did, and what I saw was the most fascinating masterpiece of the year. If it doesn’t catch on now, it will. Wanna know what I’m talking about? See it. But proceed with caution. It’s not one for the faint of heart. Or for many. And proud of it. 

This is a film that is going to leave people talking for years to come. And in that, Aronofsky has probably succeeded even further. Whether it be a good conversation or a bad one, he’s done the trick.



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