Mother! (2017)

Touting an exclamation mark that exceeds its decorative purposes, Mother! is punctuated with grubby and disturbed invasions of home and heart. Set in the agoraphobia of a large, isolated house occupied by a nameless couple, the film follows the damned renovation of old bricks and marriage. A hellish, housewife echo of predecessor Black Swan, leading protagonist Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) experiences troubling violations of reality as husband (Javier Bardem) ushers uninvited guests and strange literary influences into their private spaces. Whether harm lingers in the doorway or swarms the floorplan in ambush, all hopes of redemption are at best bloodied and at worst eaten alive.

Navigated by disorienting camerawork, detached shots and corrosive spectacles, Mother! is a hostile environment. In no rush to make audiences feel at home, it warps otherwise familiar sounds of domestic labour until they become threatening and alien. However, I can't help feeling that its unwelcoming critical reception has been sent to the wrong address. Amidst a frenzy of bewildered senses, the thematic comforts of hygiene, maternity and security soon give way to gore, combat and uncontainable forces in rather unique ways. Circulating motifs of gleaming stone totems, bleak cindered remains and pulsing hearts, the film muses over a nightmare in which compassion has crumbled beyond repair.

Deceptively concise, the constraints of its simple location and minimal cast members are soon put to rest by the chaos that overtakes the screen by the last act. Although the course of Mother!’s narrative is often as shaky as its abode, it manages to remain engaging despite its indulgent runtime. Nasty and evocative, this film balances flair and dread in a way that asserts its own territory. Perhaps, like Lawrence’s roar, Aronofsky is also yelling out from the screen: “It’s time to get the [expletive] out of my house!”

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