It’s been said that there are only two types of stories: “a person goes on a journey” and “a stranger comes to town.” And in director Darren Aronofsky’s new movie mother!, boy howdy, does a stranger come to town.
Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem live alone in a large house seemingly out in the middle of nowhere. One day, Ed Harris shows up at their door, with some story about being misinformed that their house is a bed and breakfast. Bardem, inexplicably enamored of Harris, invites him to stay the night. Before long, Harris’s wife, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, shows up, also unannounced, at which point Bardem invites the both of them to stay, despite Lawrence’s clear confusion and objections.
But it’s possible I’ve already said too much. I went into mother! knowing literally nothing about the movie other than its director, and I have to say, I can’t imagine any other way of seeing it. There are clear allegories at work, much of which becomes entirely obvious in the closing credits, but I’m even reluctant to mention what those are referencing, for fear of coloring the experience of the sheer insanity and chaos that watching mother! presents.
Yes, sheer insanity and chaos. I realize I haven’t said anything yet that would lead a person to expect that, but that’s part of the glory of watching mother! unfold—we have no idea what we’re getting ourselves into, and we almost can’t believe what we’re seeing. I sat the entire movie with my eyes wide open and my jaw dropped. It’s crazy and difficult and horrifying. To say that mother! isn’t for everyone is an extraordinary understatement: many, many people will hate, hate, hate this movie. I’ve seen an article calling it not just the worst movie of the year, but possibly of the century. The divide between those who love it and those who hate it is stark and harsh.
But I have to say… I pretty much loved it. I haven’t seen a movie that just goes for it like this since Mad Max: Fury Road, and it owes a definite debt to surrealist films of the past, which gives me a kind of excited charge. You may think it’s high art or garbage, but this movie is a singular experience. Whatever happens, mother! will leave you with an opinion.