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Oct 12

Mother!

If you are the kind of person that gets twitchy when a hot cup of tea is plonked beside, instead of on top of, a perfectly good coaster then Mother! is not the film for you.  It is the tale of a frustrated poet (credited as Him) and his house-proud wife (credited as mother) living in an idyllic country house.  He spends his time not writing while she noodles about sploshing muted Farrow and Ball tones on various walls of their chic wooden dwelling.  Her domestic goddessing routine is upset when strangers start arriving and, crucially, not leaving however many times she screams “Get out.”

An unknown couple stay over at the behest of the poet followed by their bickering sons.  What follows is rather like watching an episode of Grand Designs in reverse.  Strangers begin to arrive at the house in greater numbers as the film initially plays out as a home invasion horror.  The mother’s show home is steadily ruined as hordes of the poet’s acolytes descend on them, literally tearing the house down.  The film unfolds like the kind of nightmare where you are entirely impotent to events going on around you.  mother dashes from room to room straightening rugs and emptying ashtrays only to find a new group of hell raisers have arrived.

Critical chatter around this film has been mixed, with a good deal of words devoted to the allegory that the film purports to represent.  The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that the poet’s credit is Him with an upper case h while mother and everyone else including ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are all lower case.  Yes, we are in God territory here.  Javier Bardem is God, Jennifer Lawrence is Mother Nature., the house the Garden of Eden.  The first two strangers to arrive, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer are Adam and Eve, the sons Cain and Abel etc.  The destruction of the house is the pollution of the world and so goes the allegory.

If Mother! feels burdened by a need for interpretation it succeeds in being a nasty and very difficult film to watch – which is a good thing.  Director Daren Aronofsky is tapping into his previous work with the bristly paranoia of Black Swan and the way the camera is often stationed just behind Lawrence’s shoulder as it did behind Mickey Rourke’s in The Wrestler.  The choreography and escalation of the violence and horror make for a deeply uncomfortable second hour as Aronofsky tightens the umbilical cord he has wrapped around your neck.  That Mother! chases its own tail will come as no surprise for some.  However, you may well share the sentiments of four unlikely geysers sat to my left.  As the credits rolled one of them queried, “What was the f****** point of all that?”  What indeed?