LOOKING for subtlety?
Look elsewhere other than Darren Aronofsky’s mother! (the exclamation point in the title should be a dead giveaway).
He made us squirm through some truly icky moments in Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan and this time dials the crazy up to an almost unbearable 12 and puts another young Hollywood A-lister through a cinematic nightmare.
An acclaimed middle aged poet (Javier Bardem) and his young wife (Jennifer Lawrence), known only as Him and Mother respectively based on the closing credits, seem to have the perfect relationship in their isolated, renovators’ dream home.
However, he is becoming increasingly emotionally distant, perhaps brought on by frustrations with his writer’s block.
Greater pressure is applied to the relationship with the out-of-the-blue arrival of a pair of nosey strangers (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) who claim to be a doctor and wife but turn out to be fans.
The problem is they make themselves at home and the poet is far too welcoming and accommodating, much to his young wife’s confusion and unease.
There is something off-kilter right from the get-go, with the graphic image of a burning Lawrence and an apparently magical jewel, which is only exacerbated by the “intrusion”.
But this is just Aronofsky warming up and you will never guess where this ends up.
His story gets more bonkers as it goes along; an elaborate and ongoing metaphor for the stages leading up to and including motherhood and the roles men and women play in raising the child.
Oh, and crazy fans that make Misery’s “number one fan” Annie Wilkes look like Mother Teresa.
From the brief synopsis, it is indeed a leap to be discussing themes of motherhood and fandom, but to detail too much of the plot which fills in those gaps would ruin the surprise.
What mother! does illustrate, with the extreme situations depicted, is the hell that women go through.
What begins as an eerie thriller soon catapults into bizarre territory.
It is all over the place, to be sure, but the cast holds it together –- a constantly bewildered Lawrence navigates the goings on while Pfeiffer shines as the far too forward stranger.
This rollercoaster ride makes good on its promise to come off its rails.THE ESSENTIALS
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer
Review by: Julian Wright
In cinemas September 14