[Part 1: Spoiler-Free Review]
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.
It revolves around an unnamed woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who lives a quiet and idyllic life in an isolated country home with her poet husband (Javier Bardem). Things start to go awry when said husband allows some uninvited house guests in for an extended stay, much to the woman’s chagrin. Things escalate from there.
All of the actors are amazing, especially Lawrence, Bardem, and Michelle Pfeiffer, the latter playing the second house guest to arrive with dark comedic effect. Kristin Wiig makes an appearance in the film’s last turn for a scene that’s going to make it hard for me to ever see her as a comic actor again.
But what has really stuck with me is how disturbing the film was, and that it accomplished this without being visually disturbing. In the final act, I literally found myself hunched over, clutching my head, and fighting back the urge to vomit, something that has never happened for me at a film in spite of me being a long time devotee of the horror genre. No really—I laughed at all of the people who were overwhelmed by the exploding heads in The Belko Experiment. This was way worse, and without being particularly gory. I felt like the film was evoking feelings of PTSD in me due to my own life’s experiences.
The camera work is extremely shaky, something that I have always hated in films, but I suspect this was done on purpose to add to the feelings of bewilderment, betrayal, helplessness, and emotional turmoil being suffered by the woman. It’s effective, even if it is revolting.
Given how the film was making me feel, I question whether it wasn’t making heavy use of infrasound.
I don’t blame the people who hated the film. It’s a valid reaction. For my own part, this film has provoked far too much thought in me to call it a bad movie.
And I never want to see it again.
[Continued in Part 2: mother! Explained]