DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema
Director - Darren Aronofsky - 2017

"Greasy movie"
Maverick visionary Aronofsky’s psychological horror has a spoonful of Polanski, a dash of Hitchcock, a pinch of Kubrick and even a squeeze of Ken Russell, all topped with a sterling cast – it just premiered at Venice and is out in cinemas on Friday

His house burned up in a fire. Then he (Javier Bardem) found her (Jennifer Lawrence) and as he began to rebuild his life, so she began to rebuild the house. Her work is well on its way to completion. Outside the house lie tranquil, golden fields. He is an acclaimed poet and hasn’t written anything for a long time. The couple live in an hermetic bubble. At least she does.

That all changes when a stranger (Ed Harris) turns up and bonds with him. Suddenly she feels excluded. More new characters are soon to arrive – first the stranger’s attractive wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) then their two argumentative adult sons (real life siblings Domhnall and Brian Gleeson) then funeral guests.

He becomes increasingly obsessive recalling the writer in The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980). As he overrides her wishes she becomes increasingly isolated recalling paranoia from Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby (both by Roman Polanski, 1965 and 1968 respectively). By the end, the house has been overrun by party-goers and riotous crowds behaving like the group elements from the highly controversial The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971). From the moment Ed Harris first appeared, this was obviously going to end badly.

The narrative is presented throughout in often lengthy takes from her point of view, either directly owing much to subjective camera experiment Lady In The Lake (Robert Montgomery, 1947) or through shots of her acting within/reacting to the situation as it unfolds around her. There’s something of Hitchcock here too in the way the film constantly tortures its female lead.

Leaving aside the rather too neat book ending which sidesteps the need for backstory by some sleight of hand which doesn’t work too well, the film divides neatly into three acts which could be labelled: home building, pregnancy, motherhood. Yet each section follows roughly the same path: her idyllic existence is upset as more and more people arrive and she becomes more and more agitated. 

It’s a film which might be viewed differently by men and women – and by introverts and extroverts. But as it builds, you wonder whether piling more and more outsiders onto the couple’s private world can really sustain the proceedings and, sure enough, although the film starts off very well, at some point as the numbers mount it gets rather tedious. Much of the time you can’t help feeling that the writer-director could have done more with less and done it quicker.

I’m all for Aronofsky being given the chance to make the movies he wants. When he’s good, as in Pi (1998), The Wrestler (2008), Black Swan (2010), he’s very good. He can even be good when derivative, Black Swan being in all but name a remake with ballerinas of anime epic Perfect Blue (Satoshi Kon, 1997) to which film Aronofsky owned the rights. (Perfect Blue is due for rerelease in cinemas on 31st October, so you’ll have the chance to judge for yourself then.)

So I don’t complain that mother! is derivative, only that it’s overly self-indulgent. Performances, production value and everything else here are top notch. It’s an interesting experiment and while I defend the director’s right to make it, I’m not especially enthusiastic about the end result.

mother! premiered at the 74th Venice International Film Festival and is out in the UK on Friday, September 15th.
Watch the film trailer below:



"Greasy movie"

By Jeremy Clarke - 08-09-2017

By Jeremy Clarke - 08-09-2017

Jeremy Clarke has been writing about movies in various UK print publications since the late 1980s....

DMovies Poll

Do/would you go to the cinema in order to watch documentaries?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

François Ozon probably doesn’t get much sleep. At [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]
Time flies by! DMovies was launched in February [Read More...]
American novelist Dennis Cooper’s cinematic debut feels like [Read More...]
It’s 2018, and neoliberalism is steadily morphing into [Read More...]
On the occasion of the UK release of [Read More...]

Read More

Berlin Syndrome

Cate Shortland
2017

Victor Fraga - 06-06-2017

Forget Stockholm Syndrome! This German-flavoured kidnap is far more twisted than anything you've seen before - one of the dirtiest films of the year is out in cinemas Friday [Read More...]

The Ones Below

David Farr
2016

Victor Fraga - 09-03-2016

The convivial fears of the English are scary as the devil - find out why in this modern-day version of Rosemary's Baby [Read More...]

The Eyes of my Mother

Nicolas Pesce
2017

Victor Fraga - 14-03-2017

Ouch, that hurts! Eye-gouging and bloodcurdling American horror blends old-fashioned Lynchian and Cronenbergian devices to surprising results [Read More...]

Facebook Comment

Website Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *