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  • Jared Huizenga

'mother!' is something you don't want to watch, but can't look away from

If you were to tell me that over the past few weeks and months that you were perplexed by the trailers for Darren Aronofsky's latest film, “mother!,” I wouldn't have been surprised at all.

And, if I'm being completely honest, even after watching all 115 confounding minutes, I, too, remain a bit perplexed. But in the best possible way.


In “mother!” Jennifer Lawrence stars as a young, quiet woman living with her much older husband, played by Javier Bardem, in a spacious old home in the middle of nowhere.

While the nameless husband (none of the characters' names are used), who happens to be an esteemed poet, spends his days writing, or at least attempting to break through his writer's block, his wife spends her time rebuilding their home, which was destroyed by fire prior to the marriage.

As the couple settles in to their new digs, a stranger (Ed Harris) shows up at the couple's door. With nowhere else to go, the husband invites their house guest to stay. Soon after his brash, drunken wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives and causes even more commotion in the home.

But the fun doesn't stop there. As the home and the countryside are thrown into further turmoil, more unwanted guests arrive, essentially turning the home into a prison.

I'm sure if one were to sit down and really think about the things Aronofsky portrays on the screen, they could come up with a litany of metaphors and theories as to what was actually being said here. For me, however, I'm choosing to take a more shallow look at things.

The first thing that jumps out to me is the tension. As things begin to unravel inside the house, you know something sinister is happening, but you're not exactly sure what it is. It builds and builds, often very slowly, but once that fuse is lit, it goes and it burns hot and fast.

Second is the imagery – namely the house itself. As fun and awful Harris and Pfeiffer (and all of the other miscreants) are, the real supporting star here is the house. It's old, it's creepy, and claustrophobic. It's spacious, unsettling, and full of tight corners and hallways, perfect for evil to be lurking anywhere. But it's also beautiful in its own way. Beyond the lead actors, the house steals the show. At least for me.


The final – and easily largest – thing that caught my attention was how many I found myself staring at the screen, mouth agape, thinking to myself, “what the [insert your favorite expletive here]?” did I just see. If you thought Aronofsky pushed the boundaries of “normal” with his previous efforts like “Black Swan” and “Requiem for a Dream,” then you ain't seen nothing yet.

As I said, this film builds slowly and when it decides to step on it, it doesn't let up. And when it's not letting up, it's weird and disturbing and wonderful. There are moments when you want to cringe, but you can't bring yourself to look away for fear of missing something … even if it messes (or a more profane word) with your head. Aronofsky's ability to make you watch and not want to watch at the same time is pretty amazing.

Overall, “mother!” is good. As a matter of fact, it's really good. But I can't help but think Aronofsky owes me dinner and a movie for the things he did to my mind.

★★★★ of ★★★★★

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