A couple's relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.
Review by Louise Keller:
Insatiable love and renewal are the themes of this claustrophobic, dark psychological thriller with supernatural undertones that plays out like a bizarre dream in a David Lynch movie. Darren Aronofsky's films always push the boundaries and here, our guide is Jennifer Lawrence's vulnerable protagonist, who unwittingly sinks deeper and deeper into an emotional quagmire. Lawrence is superb - her expressive face effectively captured in tight close ups throughout. We know what she is thinking and feeling and Javier Bardem's pairing as her poet husband with terminal writer's block works exceptionally well. Bardem, whose face can reveal or conceal a multitude of facets, is enigmatic and the push-pull between them is the best part of this tense, surprising and ultimately shocking film.
Best to know as little as possible about the plot or where the story is headed; just prepare to enter a mysterious world filled with the unexpected. The film begins with a series of images: a close up of a face, an exquisite crystal positioned carefully on a stand ('a precious gift'), a sprawling home once destroyed by fire now rebuilt and renewed. None of the characters have names. We first meet Lawrence bringing life and love back into the house and her marriage. She is loving and giving; he is preoccupied and detached.
We contemplate the complex relationship between Lawrence and Bardem's characters. She is warm and loving; he is detached. The arrival of two strangers (Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer) changes everything; Harris and Pfeiffer are wonderful. We squirm with discomfort as Pfeiffer interrogates Lawrence on personal issues involving passion and procreation. The passion is ignited, although not in the way we might have imagined. Life doesn't work out the way you want, we hear.
Aronofsky grapples with issues he has dealt with before: love and death (The Fountain, 2006), obsession and perfection (The Wrestler, 2008; Black Swan, 2010). Aronofsky builds the tension slowly and effectively through its soundscape and imagery plus the ever-changing setting and perceptions of the protagonist, as more strangers enter the home and events spiral out of control. The result is dizzying and shocking. Audiences will be divided. Is the film an allegory? A masterpiece? A load of bunkum? Somewhere in between? Be the judge. In any event, the film is unforgettable.
Patti Page's poetic, melancholy The End of the World during the end credits is a poignant and jolting juxtaposition to a disturbing, thought provoking and ultimately devastating cinematic experience.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
“Darren Aronofsky's vision of the downward spiral into hell is a potent one…” that was the 2001 movie Requiem for a Dream and the writer was Richard Kuipers (revewing it in urbancinefile). I mention it because the description could also be applied to Aronofsky’s latest film, mother! - although the two films are unalike in every other way.
It’s a bumpy ride, what’s more, and the unwary are warned even before the start, seeing the title in print, with the lower case first letter, m, and the exclamation at the end. Yet the all powerful and unconditional love that is bound up in the word is also present and very much a crucial element. The other alert is in the short synopsis, referring simply to uninvited guests turning up at a couple’s home. The home is a large old house in the middle of parkland, isolated but appealing, full of character.
Then there is the absence of character names … neither the couple nor the uninvited guests have names. The discomfort of the situation provides much of the tension in the first half, but as the group becomes a crowd and the crowd becomes a mob, discomfort turns to terror. Indeed, many Europeans watching the film will no doubt recognise it as a vibrant metaphor for their own circumstances in the wake of recent mass migration events. The uninvited guests in Aronofsky’s vision don’t turn out to be grateful but hateful …
They are welcomed inside by the poet (Javier Bardem), a poet who becomes something of a superstar with his latest work. But hang on, that doesn’t happen in today’s world. Not to poets; poets are romantics, happy to open their house to strangers, especially if they are fans. So we are not looking at a poet but an idea, a cultural idea …
His wife (Jennifer Lawrence) is loving and pragmatic - and not so welcoming. Her fears are more than well founded. Aronofsky builds a sense of claustrophobia by keeping her face in close up for much of the film. We experience the unravelling through her eyes.
To see the film as such a socio-political metaphor gives it coherence and impact, and when Aronofsky constructs a heart wrenching resolution offering hope, survival and continuance of the old values that the poet grabs with both hands … the filmmaker is offering Europe hope through the human organ symbolising love – and life.
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CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Kristen Wiig
PRODUCER: Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin, Ari Handel
DIRECTOR: Darren Aronofsky
SCRIPT: Darren Aronofsky
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matthew Libatique
EDITOR: Andrew Weisblum
MUSIC: Johann Johannsson
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Philip Messina
RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 14, 2017