WTF Is Happening In Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Mother!’?

By HAYDEN MANDERS / Posted on September 17, 2017

There’s a theory that if everything in life were perfect, we wouldn’t need art. We create because the world is imperfect, or, depending on what you believe, because we have made it so. Art exists because it’s our way of answering big questions and inspiring even more. Movies, in particular, function as societal mirrors; we project ourselves onto the characters playing out on screen, comparing their actions to our own: Are they acting immorally? Why did they make that decision when there were so many other, better ones? What would I do in their situation?

What, then, are we to make of a movie like Darren Aronofsky’s mother!? Its spectacularly mysterious and coy marketing campaign did exactly what it was supposed to do: drum up excitement and a bit of fear. “You will never forget where you were the first time you saw… mother!” and “Seeing is believing” were blasted across the film’s two trailers, bookending guttural screams and images of a panicked Jennifer Lawrence. Aside from its ominous sentence summary about a couple’s tranquil existence being interrupted by unannounced strangers, nothing about mother! was known until it hit the festival circuit to equal amounts of boos and cheers. Aronofsky, as the critics teased, went places with this movie no one ever expected from a big director working with a major distributor. (These critics seem to forget Aronofsky is the brain behind Requiem for a Dream’s infamous sex party scene.)

Full disclosure: I’ve been obsessed with mother! since first seeing Lawrence’s painted dazed eyes looking out into the sky as she handed over her heart from a gaping hole in her chest to someone/thing out of the poster’s frame. Aronofsky is a bit of a hero of mine, having opened my eyes to the real cathartic possibility of cinema when I first screened Requiem. (I now watch that movie a couple times a year. Does that make me a little masochistic? Maybe.) Trying to figure out what the actual fuck this movie was about led me through the darkest corners of Reddit, consuming every theory I could find; I even spent an inordinate amount of time studying both Lawrence and her co-star Javier Bardem’s painted character posters, layering them on top of one another for clues. (There are many.) The more each festival review called out mother!’s insanity, the more eager I became.

Let me tell you, no variation of “insane” or “torture porn” does mother!justice. This movie is absolutely nuts. If someone at Paramount Pictures drew a line, Aronofsky and his impeccable cast eradicated it. This movie goes places I’ve never thought possible outside of websites like Best Gore. Mother! is as much of an assault as it is a revelation. This film doesn’t just destroy you, it leaves a void where you once were.