Tuesday, 26 September 2017

'mother!' Review

Darren Aronofsky is one of the few directors working who seems to be able to garner two opinions about his films. Usually, you either love them, hailing them as masterpieces, or despise them, claiming they are a waste of time. The director has received many plaudits from critics whilst also creating controversy with his films, with many believing that sometimes he goes too far making uncomfortable, disturbing films. His latest film 'mother!' will certainly be no different as Aronofsky more than makes use of the films 18 rating.

Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a loving couple whose relationship is put to the test after strangers come to their secluded home. This starts a series of events that raise the tension and drama with each and every step.

'mother!' may just be the most complex, unconventional film of the year and due to this, I have absolutely no idea where to begin talking about it. It is very hard to talk about this film without verging on spoilers so take this as your precautionary warning.

Darren Aronofsky has taken a very unusual approach to his latest controversial film 'mother!'. If you are looking for a film that has a usual structure, set up and story, then you will not be best pleased with this movie. This film is unlike any other this year as instead of following a new story that unfolds before your eyes, everything instead is symbolic and means something else. The entire story is made up of imagery and symbolism which in many ways is very effective. 'mother!' can be interpreted in many ways but my take on it seemed to be very obvious of Christianity and many stories from The Old Testament. Many scenes are incorporated from the stories from the Bible and do make for some compelling, tense and incredibly well-acted scenes.

However, the fact that the film doesn't look to really tell its own story can cause problems. I found myself becoming generally lost due to not having the full knowledge of the biblical stories. This didn't happen a lot in the film but it did take me out of what was happening and made it generally less effective overall. Films that make you think are truly great and we really need them, but I do feel that having the entire story based on symbolism doesn't work that well. Perhaps if it were based on a topic that I was much more familiar with then I wouldn't have a problem or notice anything wrong with it. A balance of the two is fine for me as it allows a clear story to be told amongst having much deeper messages within it. This seems to be the problem that people are having with the film and it is completely understandable. The film doesn't and can't stand on its own without the viewer having prior knowledge of the symbolism. The extreme reactions then come to this as the film really hasn't connected to the viewer and engaged them into the message it is trying to drive home.

Aronofsky has undoubtedly taken a huge risk and his bold choice to use this narrative is to be commended whether you loved the film or hated it. This is an incredibly bold risk that could've been a complete disaster but Aronofsky manages to make it work. An odd type of an artistic piece that only someone with as mad a creative mind like Aronofsky could have the nerve to attempt. It's not a perfect formula but it is a change to traditional styles and has to be admired for creating something original.

As far as performances go, you may not see a better performance all year than Jennifer Lawrence's in this film. The four-time Oscar nominee may very well be on her way to another nomination with what is a completely mesmerising performance. It's strange that in this stage of her career, Lawrence still has many skeptics but 'mother!' only solidifies why she is one of the best actresses working today. Lawrence's unnamed character goes through a lot which allows Lawrence to show a wide range of acting skills. Her facial expressions are on point and help all the way in helping you feel exactly the same way as the character. This is a key factor in the film for me as Aronofsky captures the turmoil that Lawrence's character is going through and completely feel and understand her emotions. The constant use of close-ups of Lawrence - whether on her face or following her around the house - really allows this to be possible as no look or action is wasted. The finale really allows Lawrence to shine as her last words are packed with emotion and genuine feeling, leaving an everlasting impact.

Javier Bardem plays off Lawrence incredibly well as her oblivious husband who is easily recognisable as being selfish and reckless. The contrast between himself and Lawrence's characters work very well with the symbolism as Bardem doesn't hold back in his role. He plays his character incredibly well acting oblivious to mistakes, yet powerful and devious when needed. Michelle Pfeiffer is a strong bet to be considered for an Oscar nom as well as she truly shines in her short supporting role. Pfeiffer is great to watch and steals every scene she is in with a mysterious, intimidating role that commands your attention. She delivers every line with a great deal of attitude towards Lawrence and perfectly shows her disgust at J-Law's character. The look Pfeiffer gives Lawrence whilst leaving the home is one of the best pieces of acting you'll see without a word being said.

On a technical note, there are many aspects to truly admire. The sound design, in particular, is a highlight as it gives the setting a true genuine feeling. When characters walk away or go into different rooms, it sounds as if there is a distance between the characters which makes you feel like you are right there in the moment. A friend of mine summed it up perfectly by saying it allowed the home to feel like it had an anatomy which fits perfectly with the symbolism within the film. Aronofsky has specialised recently in using a lot of close-up shots and he does well with them here to create a tight, claustrophobic feeling within the house. This helps with the character played by Lawrence who in many ways feels trapped. At times, the camera work can feel a bit bumpy making it a bit sore on the eyes at times. It's not detrimental to the film but the handheld camera work at times wasn't that successful.

'mother!' doesn't really have much in its build-up that makes it feel like it deserves its 18 rating but oh boy the last 15 minutes or so certainly earns it. The film goes completely off the rails and lets loose giving the viewer all it has to offer. There are some disturbing scenes that may be excessive for many which will leave the viewer completely appalled. With the film's narrative and the vulgarity at the end, it is no surprise that there is the reaction it is getting from many. Is some of it unnecessary? At times, yes. But there's no doubt that this ending is incredibly memorable and will impact in you in some way. For me, it worked incredibly well leaving a tragic ending to a truly challenging film.

'mother!' certainly is an incredibly unique film that you will either love or hate. If the symbolism clicks, you may have one of your favourite films of the year. If it doesn't, you may have one of the worst. Due to this huge contrast, 'mother!' is quite an important film that you should see immediately. I can't really think of a recent film that has caused such a great discussion within the community, critics and casual fans. Aronofsky certainly seems to be taking pride in this effect the film has caused and quite rightfully. He has made something truly memorable and new in a time that seems to lack originality. Give this film a try, what's the worst that can happen?

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'mother!'? If so, what did you think of the film? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the film or not. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

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