There are two main theories on Darren Aronofsky’s provocative mother!:
It’s a film about environmentalism. Jennifer Lawrence is Gaia / the Earth Mother / the Spirit of the Earth. The house is Earth. The people who assail the house, invited in by Javier Bardem (“Him” on the credits, but I’ll just call him “the Poet” or “God”), represent humanity and its destructive effect on the planet.
It’s a film about the events of the Bible. Ed Harris is Adam / Man (complete with the fresh wound of a missing rib), Michelle Pfeiffer is Eve / Woman, the smashing of God’s precious glass curio by the Woman represents the Fall, the couple’s sons are Cain and Abel, Cain murders Abel, a flood temporarily wipes out humanity from the Earth, Jesus Christ is born then murdered with the people of earth ritually partaking of his body, and the Apocalypse wipes out the earth.
It’s clear that the filmmakers intended some version of each of these interpretations, but they don’t entirely blend well together at first. How is Earth the mother of Jesus Christ? And who is Jennifer Lawrence’s character in the biblical events? Michael J. Knowles of Daily Wire suggests that Jennifer Lawrence isn’t Mother Earth, but a sympathetic Satan whose negative perceptions of God as a generous but egotistic maniac can be attributed to unreliable narration.
Which is interesting, but 100% wrong. The film tells us exactly who Satan is when Lawrence finds the ripped-up picture of her husband on the floor, horns and demon eyes drawn onto it. See also the flames that encompass Bardem on the movie poster (above). In this movie, God and Satan are one and the same.
The key to understanding mother! and winding these two narratives together is to remember that there isn’t just one Mother in the film. There are three.
Darren Aronofsky’s mother! (yes, the title is uncapitalized with an explanation point) has been getting some well-deserved buzz in spite of a lukewarm performance at the box office. The film ekes out a 67% “certified fresh” rating among critics at Rotten Tomatoes, but received a rare F grade from audiences at CinemaScore, with many audience members declaring it to have been “the stupidest thing they’ve ever seen in” their lives.
And they’re not wrong.
But I can’t stop thinking about it.
This is one of those films where the less said about the plot, the better. (more…)
Higher Ground directed by Vera Farmiga [August 2011]
Higher Ground is about a woman named Corinne Briggs, played by Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, The Departed) as an adult and Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story) as a teenager. Corinne is raised in a Christian-in-name-only household where she occasionally attends a mainline Protestant church. As a young child, she answers an altar call and agrees to make Jesus Christ her Lord and Savior. Nothing dramatic happens in this moment, and when she tells her mother afterwards about her monumental decision, Mom does not even care. Even her pastor seems more interested in flirting with her mother than in calling attention to what has just happened. But Corinne’s promise is a sincere one. Naive, perhaps, but sincere.
The years pass. Life happens. Corinne meets a guy, falls in love, and gets pregnant out of wedlock, they get married. Her young husband has his heart set on a crazy dream of making it big in the music industry. Then the couple experiences a near-tragedy wherein they cry out to God, and they seem to witness a miracle. Is it really a miracle? Well, there are other possible explanations. But what matters is that theybelieve it’s a miracle, so Corinne and her husband newly dedicate their lives to God.
CleanFlix directed by Andrew James and Joshua Ligairi [February 2010]
In the 1980s, Mormon prophet and LDS church president Ezra Taft Benson famously counseled the young men of his church to avoid watching R-rated films:
Consider carefully the words of the prophet Alma to his errant son, Corianton, “Forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes.” 
“The lusts of your eyes.” In our day, what does that expression mean?
Movies, television programs, and video recordings that are both suggestive and lewd . . .
We counsel you, young men, not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterwards. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. 
Though his words were directed at young men specifically, in practice, they became applied to church members in general. So began the cultural Mormon phenomenon of shunning R-rated films, in America, at least. Mormons would be far from the only religious conservatives to take issue with the graphic content of modern-day films based on MPAA ratings.