After watching mother! – which is playing this week at the Toronto International Film Festival – I have a sneaking suspicion that director Darren Aronofsky doesn’t have a very high opinion of the human species. It’s one of those movies that people will either love or hate. There’s not going to be a lot of in-between.
(Also, mother! is one of those movies in which there seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding its plot, which has been manufactured by Aronofsky and the studio. Look, I’ll tread lightly but I have to get into some stuff so this is more than just me writing, “I liked it.” But if you don’t want to know anything, you might not want to read this.)
When mother! opens, we meet a young woman played by Jennifer Lawrence (the characters really don’t have names, and why becomes apparent as you watch the movie). She’s married to an older man, played by Javier Bardem, and they live what seems to be a peaceful life in a house in a remote location.
Bardem’s character is a renowned poet and philosopher, and as the film progresses, we learn he has many admirers and followers, all with different intentions. Unexpectedly, a man shows (played by Ed Harris) up at their house hoping he can stay for the evening. Bardem’s character invites the man in, though Lawrence’s character (who we will call The Mother from here on out) is wary of this man and doesn’t like the intrusion. Soon after, the man’s wife shows up (Michelle Pfeiffer) and now The Mother is not happy at all this couple has taken it upon themselves to basically move into their quiet house.
Then the man and woman’s two sons (Domhnall Gleeson and Brian Gleeson) arrive and, boy, these two do not get along – and violence soon erupts, spinning this once quiet house into a sort of constant state of angst and turmoil. As the movie goes on, the house that was once described as paradise has now become something that more resembles destructive chaos.
Look, it should be no surprise to you by this point (if you’re still reading – though I have no idea why this parenthetical is here because people who stopped reading will never see this part) that there are a lot of religious undertones in mother!. Actually, it’s an understatement to call them “undertones.” They are more like “overtones.” Yes, definitely “overtones.”