mother! is written and directed Darren Aronofsky, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. So far, this is the most controversial and divisive movie of the 74th Venice Film Festival, and not for the reasons some might believe: a lot of audience members went to the screenings ready to hate the film (either cause of the director or the lead actress), there was constant laughter that ridiculed the film for some weak writing, and, as soon as the credits started rolling, I was one of the few who applauded, while the rest either booed or whistled in disapproval at the film (first time during this edition of the festival).
I am not going to explain the plot, since Darren wants audience members to go in as blind as possible. As of right now, I am really thorn about this movie: on the one hand, technically it is very competent, the art design is wonderful, the cinematography is claustrophobic, and the performances are good; on the other, the first and second half of the film are quite different, some of the dialogue is too expository, and the director thinks it is smarter than it actually is.
The film defies genres, featuring elements of romance, drama, home invasion, body horror, supernatural thriller, pushing to be a shocking film while not being as disturbing as it could have been. There is an elongated sequence during the climax of pure chaos: the audience, just like Lawrence, is thrust in a situation in which you have no control at all of the environment, where your words and actions are ignored by everyone. This scene was terrifying on a purely human level, and the feeling of being powerless in your own home really got to me. Unfortunately, there are other scenes that resemble films from the French Extremist Wave, but they come off as silly rather than disturbing.
The acting is quite good here, with Lawrence delivering a committed performance that asks her to have a confused face for the majority of the film. Bardem and Ed Harris are great as always, and simply looking at their faces tells you that something is wrong. It is Michelle Pfeiffer, however, that steals every scene she is in: seducative and enigmatic, you end up wishing that she was at the core of the story, and I hope we see her more in future films.
The sound design is spectacular, as are the music by Johann Johannssonn and the cinematography by Matthew Libatique: the whole movie is experienced from Lawrence’s point of view, making you hear what she hears, keeping her at the center of the frame (showing what she sees and how she reacts), and increasing the number of cuts the more intense the story gets. The story itself is full of references and parallels with the Old Testament, and every viewer is going to have a specific interpretation of what they experienced.
Overall, mother! is far from a bad movie, but it is not the masterpiece of horror that many hoped it would be: with a convoluted story with some great moments, great acting, excellent production and sound design, I can see this becoming one of those movies that critics just didn’t understand when it first came out. I am definitely going to rewatch it once it comes out, but I do not disagree that Aronofsky bit far more than he could chew, chocking on his love for Lawrence and his overconfidence in the product.
Visual Effects: 8
Violence & Gore: 8.5
Sex & Nudity: 7
Drugs & Profanity: 5
Intensity & Horror: 8