Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! Proves To Polarize With Its Ambiguity

So many things to say about Darren Aronofsky’s new film, Mother!. First, I want to express that I really liked it. It’s scary, intense, emotional, frenetic, and ambiguous, which I think might be its greatest strength. For most of the film, it has rising and falling tension, but never becomes more than what the average viewer can handle. But then it does… Let me explain.

The plot of Mother! is fairly simple and straightforward. It is about Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, who live in an isolated house that has multiple floors with multiple areas in the house that play a part in the story. They seem like a happy couple, but we aren’t told much about them, other than they are married, he’s a writer who has writer’s block, and she’s fixing up the house.

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Then one day a mysterious man shows up at their front door, a man played by Ed Harris. He’s there for an unknown reason, but we later learn that he is 1, a doctor, and 2, a big fan of Bardem’s writing. He makes Lawrence uncomfortable when he stays the night – especially when we see that he gets ill and Bardem has to take care of him in a reversal of roles.

The next day however he seems perfectly fine, and then suddenly another mysterious person shows up at their door. It is Harris’ wife, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, and she from moment one seems up to something. In the next 20 minutes, we don’t learn much about her, but we do see her really pry into Jennifer Lawrence’s relationship with her husband, and what may be really going on with why their having marital issues. These moments are really uncomfortable for all the right reasons, but later on seems like a harbinger for what’s coming.

All the while that Harris and Pfeiffer are there, Lawrence is seeing creepy things going on physically with the house. Almost like either a telepathy or some unexplained insight. She sees visions happening inside the walls. This will come around again.

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So far I was very much enjoying the film’s narrative, but also trying to figure out what all of it means, and what is going to happen. What does happen is all the more intense and satisfying than what I was predicting. There is a fight between real life brothers Brian and Domhnall Gleeson which turns deadly. Then there is a bunch of guests that show up unannounced, and from Lawrence’s perspective, unwelcome. The bad part is that her husband Bardem is the one who IS welcoming and wanting them to stay, because in his words, it is helping him to be more creative – and also because he wants to bring life into the house.

After the gnarly party, she and her husband have it out and then have sex. The next morning, she realizes (already) that she’s pregnant, and he gets very excited and starts writing. His writer’s block is completely cured, and he doesn’t even bother to get dressed. This is the point, after this moment, when the shit really starts to hit the proverbial fan. Adoring fans mixed with some criminals and then the police start to riot inside the house, and at the center of all of it is Jennifer Lawrence trying to keep the house intact, and stop things from getting out of hand, to no avail. The last part of the story I will leave for you to think about if you are reading this and have not seen it. And even if you have.

I think the film is an allegory for several ideas. The idea of Motherhood is front and center, but also what Jennifer Lawrence is as a whole to her husband, her child, and lastly her house. But here is my other thought. The poem that her husband writes is what then happens after that leading all the way up to the end. Did it really happen, or was it all a fantasy?? Did ANY of the story really happen, or was it all made up in the mind of an unknown character? I do believe that no matter what, this film is fantasy, because so much of what happens doesn’t feel real and is meant not to be taken literally, but more as a meaning for life and the world we live in. I don’t know the mind of Darren Aronofsky, but he’s for sure getting at something with this film. I don’t think we’re meant to know fully, and I like that. The more ambiguous it is, the better.

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One last thought I have is that right when the film ended, the people in the row sitting in front of me were pretty negative on it, and in fact, one person even said, “I didn’t get any of it. That was the worst film I have ever seen.”. I got pretty mad about this, and took it personally as a film lover that someone would be so lazy to just conclude that a film is bad because it wasn’t easily digestible. I think this film is completely meant to make a person think long after they see it, question what was going on, come up with some theories, and then form an opinion.

I have even seen people say they don’t recommend people go see it. I get frustrated by that. Why would you tell a person NOT to see a film?? Instead, tell them to go see it and then come back with an opinion. That is the whole reason besides pure enjoyability to go out and see films in the first place. We’re meant to share them with each other and to have a discourse about them. Dissect them and watch them again and again. Here ends my rant. Thank you for listening.

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4 thoughts on “Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! Proves To Polarize With Its Ambiguity

  1. Ah, people often tend to dislike movies of this kind of plot and structure. I remember similar things were said about films like Mulholland Drive – I see no point in trying to logically understand everything that happened there. It’s much better rather to try to FEEL it.

    Good review. That said, I haven’t watched Mother!

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  2. I can’t blame the average movie-goer for not being able to understand the movie and thus labeling it as bad. It wasn’t easy to understand or digest, and I agree with them, although I don’t consider it a bad movie…just not his best work at all.

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  3. On recommending NOT seeing it, I personally found the film to be deeply morally bad. I thought the way the film treated women, and indeed humanity in such a gross and unkind way, really only to a means of student film-esque self aggrandisement.

    And so I think I would still tell people not to see it, I think it’s a film that is a bit evil to be honest, and I don’t think people need to see it.

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