The Most Controversial Film This Year
There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that Mother! is the most controversial film to be released this year. Perhaps some of this is the root cause of marketing it as a thriller or a horror, of which this thought provocative, pretentious film is neither. There’s certainly an interesting use of symbology throughout and excellent cinematography is used to disguise what’s otherwise an incredibly bland film. With no music, a dull colour palette and a structural mess of a story, Mother! is a test of patience during its 2 hour run time. Most of the film feels like its building up to something special, teasing that the wait will be worth it, before a contrived ending that’s cliched and just doesn’t work here. Split into two parts with no characterisation and no explanation beyond the faint glimmer of a few bible stories being recreated, Mother! is a film you’ll either love or loathe.
The film opens with a woman (Jennifer Lawrence) awakening in a remote mansion calling out for her beloved, conveniently called “Him” (Javier Bardem). Their quiet life and relationship is put to the ultimate test when “Him” opens the door for guests to come and stay and their tranquillity and privacy is destroyed. The story builds toward the midway point as a horde of people flood the house before the narrative jumps forward in time and starts the cycle of building up toward a large crowd entering the house again. There’s some obvious Christian symbology at play here, with the two stories contrasting and playing off as artistic recreations of a few bible fables. Quite what the purpose of this is or just what this film is trying to say on a thematic level is beyond this reviewer.
One of the guests, a woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) is excellent and manages to convey the right mix of complexity and danger in her persona to make her the most intriguing character next to Jennifer Lawrence. Despite her relatively short tenure on screen, the dynamic between these two is rife with tension but it never goes anywhere and just fizzes out at the halfway point of this 2 hour film. Those looking for a straight forward or cohesive experience are sure to be left disappointed here as Mother! spends most of its time leading up to something special that never really arrives.
Although Mother!’s disjointed plot and lack of explanation for anything makes it something of a structural mess, there’s no denying that the artistic vision and cinematography are outstanding. With the majority of the film shot from a handheld camera tracking Jennifer Lawrence, the unique viewpoint and dizzying array of front and rear views of her character as she moves around the house certainly help give the film a more arthouse appeal than a mainstream, enjoyable flick. Furthermore, the audio design is top notch, taking full advantage of surround sound despite the debilitating lack of music throughout. This lack of a musical score really makes Mother! more bland than it should be, especially during some of the infrequent dramatic scenes. Those going into this expecting an artistic film that defies any sort of definable structure, may well find Mother! a fascinating, challenging film to watch and dissect. For the everyday, mainstream movie watcher, Mother!’s lack of structure and pretentiousness is sure to alienate making it a film for the few rather than the many.