Directed by Darren Aronofsky, mother! brings us into the heart of the fractured marriage of Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) and Man (Javier Bardem). A poet who suffers from writer’s block, Bardem is distant and cold as he sweats over his pages, praying for inspiration. Meanwhile, as her husband focuses his energy on his work, Lawrence’s Mother invest her time meticulously rebuilding their home after a recent fire burnt it to the ground. However, when a mysterious visitor arrives in the middle of the night, Bardem invites the stranger into their home (without consulting his bride). As a result of the invitation, the presence of the visitor (and those that come after) begins to destroy their marriage and, potentially, their home as well.
In mother!, it should be no surprise that Lawrence provides the right mixture of stability and chaos while Bardem appears as menacingly as ever. Nevertheless, the real visionary behind the narrative is writer/director Darren Aronofsky. While the marketing would have you believe that the film is a straight up ‘home invasion’ thriller, that’s not entirely true. As with previous Aronovsky pieces, such as Black Swan and Noah, the film begins using traditional genre tropes and undermines them as the film progresses. As a result, mother! comes across as more of an art-house piece than blockbuster thriller. Visually stunning and filled with metaphors from the films first frame to the last, mother! is the type of film that may leave the casual ticket buyer baffled, unless they’re really interested in exploring Aronovsky’s deeper messages.
In many ways, mother! is a natural follow-up to Noah, Aronovsky’s controversial Biblical epic. Serving as a metaphor for environmental disaster, mother! also delves deeply into spiritual metaphor and man’s relationship with an arrogant God. As the film unravels, the relationship between Lawrence and Bardem becomes increasingly visual as they explore the religious significance of the apparent priority that God places on humanity over his first love, Creation. While Lawrence obsesses over trying to build her home and keep it beautiful, Bardem’s unnamed character is disinterested in her passions (and personally) as he broods about his inability to create His way. His love for his fans begins with a welcome of ‘the first family’ and becomes increasingly unreasonable as he constantly defends the actions of those who have come to worship him yet destroy the home in the process. In other words, unlike the vengeful (and almost random) God of Noah, mother! portrays God as more self-absorbed, feeding off the worship of his followers regardless of their recklessness. (In fact, in mother!, the viewer begs Bardem to hold the people accountable for their actions, an irony considered that Noah depicts God as unreasonably ruthless.)
As a pastor, I recognize that Aronofsky is addressing some key spiritual questions in the midst of the carnage. Does God care about his creation at all, given that his people do not? Is his view of worship (which the church acknowledges is to give Him glory) about merely feeding his own ego or something more profound? While Aronofsky speaks of the things of God, he often seems to fall on the more negative side of the conversation (again, see Noah), however, he also shows his interest in exploring the significance of meaning of the Biblical narrative.
But be warned. mother! is a fierce and unrelenting beast of a Creation metaphor that not only wants you to feel uncomfortable. It wants you to live there.