Wednesday, 20 September 2017




It’s not surprising that my first Wow! film in almost six months should come from writer/director Darren Aronofsky, who has made a number of Wow! films, including Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain, though his last film (Noah) was, for me, a dud. More surprising is that a double-wow film should come out of Hollywood (Paramount), indicating that some studios are not afraid to take a major gamble for the sake of cinematic art. 

Because make no mistake: mother! is not typical studio fare. Indeed, mother! is so beloved by the masses that it gets an average of “F” (on a scale from A+ to F) on CinemaScore (one of only a handful of films ever to sink to such glorious depths), which surveys audiences when they leave the theatre. One prominent reviewer calls mother! “the most vile and contemptible motion picture ever released by one of the major Hollywood studios”. In The Observer, Rex Reed, giving mother! zero stars, writes: “With so much crap around to clog the drain, I hesitate to label it the 'Worst movie of the year' when 'Worst movie of the century' fits it even better.” Reed dismisses positive reviews as "equally pretentious" and "even nuttier than the film itself.” In the National Review, we read that “pregnant women, those with nervous constitutions or heart conditions, and anyone who happens to be burdened with good taste should stay far away from mother!

If that isn’t enough to get you rushing out to your local arthouse cinema, I don’t know what else I can say to entice you. Oh, yeah, well, I guess I can encourage you to run, not walk. Away, that is! Run away!!  You do NOT want to watch this film! Trust me on this. No one wants to watch this film. I really need to see it again to catch what I missed the first time, but the idea of doing so fills me with dread. Of course, the thought of watching Requiem for a Dream or Black Swan (both of which I consider cinematic masterpieces) again evokes a similar response.

What to do with this Aronofsky fellow, whom I can only describe as a mad genius? Are his films pretentious misguided attempts at a new cinematic art form or are they indeed unparalleled works of cinematic art? I don’t feel qualified to answer that, but anyone who consistently makes films so mesmerizing from start to finish that they leave me in a daze long afterwards must be doing something right. Mesmerizing is the word that sums up mother! for me. The performances, especially by Jennifer Lawrence as our protagonist (mother) and Michelle Pfeiffer as the uninvited guest from hell who intrudes on the younger woman’s carefully structured and beautifully maintained space, are all mesmerizing, as is the stunning cinematography.

You may have noticed that I have said little about what mother! is about. Actually, I’ve probably said too much already, because this is one of those films where the less you know, the better (though since I’ve told you to run away, what does it matter, right?). But I will flesh out the film’s opening a little more: ‘Mother’ and her husband, the poet (played by Javier Bardem), live in a gorgeous mansion in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly a man (Ed Harris) appears at the door, followed soon after by his wife (Pfeiffer). They make themselves at home, so to speak. Then their sons show up (played by real-life brothers, Brian and Domhnall Gleeson) and all hell breaks loose (to be fair, ‘all hell breaks loose’ is rather an understatement here). 

I had heard mother! described as a psychological thriller, but let me assure you that it can safely be called a horror film. That is misleading, however, because mother! actually belongs to a genre that I dare not mention at this point (I promise to write an updated review in a month to allow the less wary among you time to watch mother! without preconceived ideas about what you’re getting into). I will only say that there are various ways of understanding the horror that is mother!

I have no doubt that mother! will tank at the box office and disappear in record time for a studio film. Perhaps Paramount will logically decide never to take such risks again (for Hollywood it’s usually all about the money). But it’s a shame, because Aronofsky represents the cutting edge of American filmmaking. My jaw was in my lap for about six hours and I can only reward such experiences with ****. My mug is up, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

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