Movie review: 'Mother!'

Brad Keefe

Just one week into its theatrical run, “Mother!” is already proving to be one of the most polarizing movies of the year.

The latest film from Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan,” “Requiem for a Dream”) is a movie sure to elicit love-it-or-hate-it reactions.

For starters, despite its star power and surprising wide release, you should really know what you're getting into. This is not a mainstream horror-thriller. It's a weird and deeply allegorical experimental film.

So is “Mother!” right for you? Read on to find out. I promise I won't spoil the goods.

The mother of the title (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in a large country house with her husband (Javier Bardem), a famed writer working on his next piece.

When an uninvited guest (Ed Harris) arrives, their seemingly tranquil life takes a slow and sinister turn.

Is that enough plot for you? Because it's all I'm giving you.

Obviously some people are going to walk out of “Mother!” asking, “What the hell did I just watch?” Some may walk out before it's even over.

But this isn't just a pretentious and snobby art-house horror movie that you either like or you get accused of “not getting.” It's actually some very slick and effective filmmaking, albeit in a movie where the audience has to accept that the narrative will rarely be tidy.

Aronofsky is certainly no stranger to self-indulgence as a director. I mean, look, there's a certain level of pretense inherent when you stylize your movie title all lowercase with an exclamation mark at the end.

And, yes, there's some real top-level allegory going on here, but it's not necessary that you unravel all the layers to enjoy the movie.

What is necessary is that you must be OK with not always understanding what is happening or why. This movie is unsettling in its weirdness and operates more on deep anxiety than horror. Then it goes absolutely bonkers.

Lawrence gives a stellar performance as the person dealing with all manner of strange and unsettling behavior from others. Much of the film is basically gaslighting her character … and the audience. Bardem, Harris and a scene-stealing Michelle Pfeiffer also shine.

And now that I've allowed myself to read up on some of the symbolism and themes that are at play here, I want to see it again. It's not for everyone, but it's definitely for me, and ranks as one of the year's most unique experiences. Just check your expectations.


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5 stars out of 5