This in-your-face psycho-horror starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem is so much more than a haunted house movie – it‘s bold, barmy and brilliant
‘Baby?’ That’s the first thing we hear in Darren Aronofsky’s unhinged psychodrama, an instant landmark of test-your-limits cinema. It’s the gentle, groggy call of a young wife whose name is never mentioned (Jennifer Lawrence, increasingly rattled) who wakes up alone in bed, uncertain where her intense poet husband (Javier Bardem) is or her general status in the isolated farmhouse they’re renovating. But ‘Baby?’ is also a clue into the deeper mummy drama to come. Will there be a baby for them? And if so, when? Will it be too soon, or not soon enough? To compare ‘Mother!’ to other mama-minded thrillers like ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, ‘Don’t Look Now’, ‘Antichrist’ and ‘The Babadook’ is almost selling it short. This one’s a crucible of sweaty pre-natal panic, weird knocks at the door, mind games and ultimately, a roaring, miniature apocalypse set inside a single claustrophobic living room. If that already sounds like your home, it’s time to go and give it a try.
Apart from ‘The Wrestler’, Aronofsky prefers things greenish and sick-looking, like the open sores of ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Requiem for a Dream’. ‘Mother!’ is firmly in that tradition, but there’s exquisite control in the way this writer-director eases us into his nightmare, working from an original script that must represent hundreds of hours of therapy. There’s a tension between this couple: a war of aloofness and neediness. Bardem’s character has one of those precious creative routines that requires an imposing amount of solitude. She, meanwhile, smears different shades of puke-coloured gunk on the wall out of boredom. Already we feel their disconnection, so when mysterious guests start showing up, including a hacking, smoking doctor (Ed Harris) and his unkempt, half-drunk wife (Michelle Pfeiffer, reviving her glorious Catwoman purr), you feel for Lawrence, cleaning up their mess and enduring their judgy scowls.
So far, so Polanskian. Given how deliciously unsettling this first hour is, it’s hard to know precisely when the movie slips the leash of reality. Is it when two furious adult brothers (Brian and Domhnall Gleeson) barge in and start punching each other? Or when blood seeps out of an orifice in the floorboards? ‘Mother!’ is a movie that invents new shades of mania. After much screaming, destruction of furniture, an impromptu eulogy and even some long-belated screwing, Lawrence turns to Bardem and smiles a crazy grin. She’s expecting and she knows it. This is the moment when Aronofsky doubles down, building a calamitous swirl of violence around his heavily pregnant hero who’s suddenly in her third trimester. You cringe at the viciousness.
Grappling with this powerhouse sequence – steeped in gore, religious symbolism, hundreds of marauding strangers (including a spooky Kristen Wiig) and sheer chutzpah – is the moviegoing challenge of the year. ‘Mother!’ is, without doubt, the most radical studio film since ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’, and your disbelief at its daring will be part of the fun. Matthew Libatique’s camera, hovering close to Lawrence’s brow like an angel of sympathy, helps us into her emotions, but just as powerfully Aronofsky weaves in a savage indictment of ‘artistic’ male ego and entitlement that makes his climax feel self-critical. In an intensely personal way, ‘Mother!’ is an apology to anyone who’s ever felt eaten alive by love at its most selfish. Naturally, it’s required viewing for married couples.
Cast and crew
Average User Rating
2.4 / 5
- 5 star:1
- 4 star:3
- 3 star:0
- 2 star:7
- 1 star:3
Wait what?! Did you actually watch this movie or were you given some kickback for the 5star review or something?!! Thanks Joshua for ruining my perfect date!!! I only went to see this movie because of your rating. It was a waste of my 2hrs!! You should be fired for this criminal review. Timeout should be weary of people like you!! I hate you Joshua Rothkopf!!!😡
Awful, boring mess of a film. Pretentious, confusing, with annoying, lifeless characters, especially the oblivious husband-poet who is far from being alert or perceptive enough to be a poet. It goes nowhere, is heartless, and if there is a theme or allegory in it, who cares?
The critics have been divided on director Darren Aronofsky’s new film — “work of inspired genius” or “load of unadulterated twaddle”?
I enjoyed his much-acclaimed and multi-awarded movie “Black Swan” a few years back so I had to give this one a go and my own verdict falls at the lower end of the extremes quoted above.
A poet with writer’s block and his adoring young wife are living in rural tranquility until a mysterious visitor appears at their door. Claiming to be a doctor, he is welcomed by the poet but the next day his wife turns up and they settle in comfortably.
In the meantime, there’s lots of strange noises, odd incidents, creepy music and mysterious oozing bloodstains on the floor.
To the increasing distress of the poet’s partner, the couple are then joined by the visitors’ feuding sons, one of whom dies in a scuffle.
I was pleasantly reminded of Luis Bunuel as more and more strangers invade the house for the funeral to the apparent joy of the poet and the despair of his wife.
A few bewildered punters watching with me — no doubt expecting a conventional Hollywood weirdo-fest and pulled in by two top Hollywood stars, Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem - quietly exited the multiplex but your intrepid writer persevered as the film launched into ever more extravagant scenes.
The poet becomes unblocked and his house is besieged by adoring fans and we are treated to rioting, bangs, fighting and explosions, which made my recent visit to IMAX to see “Dunkirk” seem mild in comparison. I won't cover any of the more shocking scenes involving gruesome murders and violations here.
It’s not often in my multi-decade cine experiences that I have to resort to looking for explanations for what a movie is all about after I have seen it, but to sum up the thousands of erudite words on the internet, we are told the whole thing is biblical and an allegory of the book of Genesis.
Well, blow me down, I’d never have guessed.
You have been warned.
I'm afraid I entirely agree with JJ. This really is the most appalling drivel. Two hours of wholly unpleasant, nasty torture. I can't help but suspect that this is what happens when people get too famous, are allowed indulge themselves making this kind of nonsense and nobody has the courage to tell them to stop. If you decide to view the film despite this review and are then tempted to walk out half way through, then my advice is to do so. The film starts badly, gets steadily worse and there is no remarkable plot twist at the end to rescue it. I am from the Tunbridge Wells area and I am disgusted.
This not a film for those of a nervous disposition. Nor is it a film for those you have been in any truly difficult circumstances like Aleppo or Raqqa where there is any possibility of PTSD. If you do go then stay to the end. There will be a time when you might well wonder if that is a good idea.
So why 4 stars? Well here is material in these 2 hours that could well be an allegory for the downside of fame. You create something, not including a baby, and low and behold it takes over your life and you lose control. Its just that this film winds up the volume on that...a lot. Be warned and stay till the end.
This film is memorably terrible. If I could give it minus five stars I would. Please don't waste your time.