Once every now and then a film appears that defies genre. Something that despite loosely being categorised as such, escapes the pigeon holes of that type of film and stands alone. Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, does just that, treading the boundaries between horror, psychological thriller and kitchen sink drama. It’s almost impossible to label mother!, as this film, this slowly boiling pot full of oil, gradually begins to bubble over, pan lid rattling and drops falling from the over running pan hissing as they hit the flame beneath. From its slow opening to its frantic, convoluted climax, mother!, grips you and doesn’t let go, its claws getting tighter and digging under the skin, the further on the film goes.
mother! is a film that depicts the conflict of creativity, ego, the need to be loved and trying to love in return. This is at once both subtle and on the nose and culminates in an escalating final third that gets more and more out of hand as the ego gets bigger. In fact up to that point, the film moves at an extremely stately pace, then all of a sudden shifts up a few gears in to all out chaos. The camera work in mother!, is fascinating. Almost every shot is unnervingly close to each characters face, usually framing just the head and shoulders, and the way it follows them around has an extremely unsettling movement, as if slightly rigid and fixed on the actors face, yet also has an awkward, loose look to it. It’s quite incredible how Aronofsky maintains a gradually rising sense of dread, especially given how little music there is to the film, and when there is, it’s minimal at best. The majority of the film goes unscored and perhaps feels even more unsettling without one. The grainy, olive look to the film makes it look like you’re watching an oil painting. Jennifer Lawrence is quite remarkable here, with excellent support from a lot of familiar faces, like Javier Bardem’s struggling writer husband, to the strange Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer that unexpectedly turn up at their house, setting in motion a series of unusual events. There’s a couple of “did that just happen” cameos thrown in there too. There’s so much going on at once and the camera is so jarring you’re questioning what and who you’re seeing.
This is clearly a very personal film for Aronofsky, perhaps trying to interpret the struggle with his professional life and personal life, and there’s quite a lot here that’s open to interpretation, particularly the beginning and the end, but to delve in to that here, may be to divulge too much. One thing’s for certain, it will not be for everyone. There’s no clear narrative, and the climactic shit storm may only serve to confuse. It’s a sensory assault that escalates to a foreseeable conclusion, with a few shocking scenes thrown in for good measure, as we seemingly descend in to a bizarre hell. A frantic, existential fever dream that will haunt you for days.