Review: mother!

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: A young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) restoring her older husband’s (Javier Bardem) decaying home, finds their idyll interrupted by two abrasive house guests (Ed Harris & Michelle Pfeiffer).

REVIEW: As far as big studio movies go this year, few are as shrouded in mystery as Darren Aronofsky’s MOTHER!. Like a vintage Roman Polanski film, Aronofsky’s outing is one that should subvert audience expectations at every turn, but whether or not they enjoy the experience is another matter altogether. It’s constantly confounding, and one of those movies that you’ll be trying to figure out throughout, although probably the best advice for viewers is to just surrender themselves to this twisted tale and take it as it comes.

Genre fans will be divided. The trailers for this are scarier than anything in the film, and one can’t help but think audiences are being lured in to give it a big opening weekend. Relatively free of any big scares, it’s more darkly humorous than frightening. While similar in some ways to ROSEMARY’S BABY, its not as closely patterned on that film as people have presumed, with Jennifer Lawrence’s character not the babe in the woods Mia Farrow was. She’s got “issues” of her own, with her desperately clinging to her husband, Javier Bardem, who’s a blocked writer, and sneaking away to drink glowing liquid every now and then which is (maybe?) supposed to help her conceive a child.

Hell, for her, is anyone who takes Bardem’s attention away from her, with Ed Harris, as a cancer-ridden doctor, showing up one night, and then suddenly being invited to stay indefinitely. This is made worse by his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) who delights in provoking Lawrence, and eventually invites her crazy sons (including Domhnall Gleeson) to the home – leading to absolute chaos, but this is only the beginning.

A slow-burn, the movie really kicks to life in the second hour, with the insanity gradually being kicked-up more-and-more as huge throngs of people show up, with it having near apocalyptic consequences that are better left as a surprise for viewers. Suffice to say, regular genre beats are not a priority for Aronofsky. BLACK SWAN was scarier than this, but that’s not to say MOTHER! isn’t great in it’s own way. The performances, by design, are highly theatrical, with Lawrence perfectly cast in the type of part she fares best in – trading on her own iconic star status which, in some ways, winds up being a sly metaphor for fame.

MOTHER! will definitely be most appreciated by Aronofsky devotees, with mainstream audiences (and casual J Law fans) unlikely to warm to up to the film in a big way, although cult midnight status seems all but guaranteed. It’s a juicy, crazy movie for those adventurous enough to keep an open mind, but again, don’t expect anything as regular as a jump scare or – I dunno – a cohesive plot to see you through.




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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.