121 minutes (18)
Darren Aronofsky can never be accused of doing things by halves – if he were a contestant on the Great British Bake Off his showstoppers would be the stuff of a Willy Wonka acid trip.
But while his efforts would always be incredible on the eye, the contents would most likely leave fans divided – you can just picture Paul Hollywood now, gawping at a Sauerkraut chocolate cake crafted to appear like a beef wellington with all the trimmings.
mother! is his latest creation and a film fans will devour or be repulsed by in equal measure.
Regardless of the reaction your stance on Aronofsky’s work though, it’s still a movie worth seeing over anything else out there, purely for the discussion and dissection it will most likely generate.
mother! centres on Jennifer Lawrence, a nameless woman living in a large, newly-restored home with her poet husband Javier Bardem.
Together they live a quiet existence, with Bardem’s character suffering from a serious bout of writer’s block, while also obsessing over a mysterious crystal that resides on his mantelpiece and may or may not hold the key to what follows.
Whether the stone is crucial to the increasingly bizarre events that play out is unclear though, much like all of the action that follows. It makes for a heady, thought-provoking and visually impressive ride though.
Jennifer Lawrence is the glue that keeps the film’s increasingly frayed narrative together, with the Oscar winner a captivating presence throughout.
Living in quiet peace rather than anything necessarily idyllic, Lawrence and Bardem find their lives disrupted when Ed Harris’ unexpected guest arrives and is invited to stay by Lawrence’s husband. Eventually his wife, Michelle Pfeiffer also arrives on the scene and things begin to get very weird.
Pfeiffer, evidently relishing her return to the spotlight, is excellent alongside Harris, though quite what their role is in the unfolding drama and the meaning behind it is anyone’s guess.
Surreal and almost comedic at times, mother! also falls head first into the category of horror with ripped out hearts, bloody weeping floor boards and violent mayhem that, at times, could be cut down without losing much in the way of visual or narrative effect.
It’s clear that Aronofsky is making some kind of statement on masculinity and the family dynamic, among other things. Bardem is the pained poet, desperate to seek out new people and experiences to help feed his creativity and the attention he so desperately craves.
But Lawrence is simply there to serve him, having created their countryside paradise from scratch only to see it gradually ripped apart as the film progresses, while Bardem watches on as a self-obsessed and willing bystander.
The film’s title is a hint at what is to come, with Aronofsky taking his exploration of womanhood and societal roles to a dark and twisted conclusion that is likely to leave a bad taste in some audiences’ mouths.
But it’s a taste that will stay with you, whether you like it or even understand it. mother! might lack the narrative thrust of films like Black Swan or The Wrestler, but it’s an engaging, well shot and well acted visual treat unlike any you have tried previously.