It’s been three years, and I still can’t stop thinking about Darren Aronofsky’s mother! is it one of the best horror movies of all time? Is it a horror movie at all? Is it a commentary on our abuse to the planet Earth? Is it an allegory for the Creation story? Is it both? Is it neither?
Honestly, if there’s one absolute about mother!, it’s that it’s a movie that will certainly make you feel something. Now, whether that’s a good feeling or a bad one is up to you, but I think it’s almost certain that you’ll walk away from mother! with serious thoughts on your mind. For me, the thoughts were heavy and confusing at first, like a nullifying drug stupor. But as I walked to my car, I wondered if I just witnessed a masterpiece or one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my entire life. But upon several viewings later, I’ve fallen into the former category, and I have five reasons why. Now, come along and touch the pulsating wall with me, please. Oh, and major spoilers up ahead, by the way.
The Acting, Particularly Michelle Pfeiffer and Jennifer Lawrence, Is Top Notch
Okay, first off, mother! may have been the movie that ruined Jennifer Lawrence’s career. Or at the very least, put it on hold. Before mother!, Jennifer Lawrence was literally the girl on fire. But after mother!, she decided to take a pretty long hiatus from the limelight. But why?
Well, it’s definitely not because of her performance, since it’s impeccable in this movie. In fact, it’s probably the best she’s done since Silver Linings Playbook, especially since she’s supposed to represent a distressed and brutalized Mother Earth (more on that later). Actually, all of the acting is top-notch. Ed Harris as a grieving father (and stand in for Adam). Michelle Pfeiffer as his wife (and stand in for Eve), and Javier Bardem, in the most underappreciated role of his career, as a poet and stand in for God, are all at the top of their game. They draw you in long enough to entice you, only to curb stomp your soul. They really are amazing, and I honestly think they should have all been nominated for Oscars. Every last one of them.
It's An Arthouse Film Masquerading As A Horror Movie
I want you to watch the trailer for mother! Go ahead. I’ll wait… Okay, so that looks really scary, right? But… the actual movie is not. I mean, there are definitely some scenes that still traumatize me today more than anything I’ve ever seen in any other controversial movie. But mother! is not a horror movie. Not really.
Or at least, not in the traditional sense. If anything, it’s “a horror movie” like Mulholland Drive is a horror movie, or like Darren Aronofsky’s own Requiem For a Dream or Black Swan are horror movies. And by that, I mean it’s incredibly artistic, but also has a super creepy undertone, which makes it stick with you all the more so. That said, there’s such beauty in this film, and it’s super artsy. But underneath it all is a disgusting, pulsating, bloody heart, and it’s the kind of art that repulses you to the extent that you’ll never forget it. And that brings me to my next point.
It Made Me Feel Uncomfortable To The Point That I Wanted To Leave When I First Saw It
I’ve seen a lot of “the most disturbing movies ever” in my lifetime—Salo. A Serbian Film. Cannibal Holocaust. You name it!—But mother! is the only movie that I felt so uncomfortable watching that I seriously considered leaving the theater. It starts off slow, but the tension mounts considerably once Ed Harris’s and Michelle Pfeiffer’s character make themselves at home. Then, it quickly spirals out of control as the house gets tighter the more people start intruding. It gets to the point that it’s suffocating for both Jennifer Lawrence’s character, and the audience as well.
But then, that scene happens. I’m guessing you’ve seen the movie if you’re reading this article, but the scene where the baby gets its neck broken and IS THEN EATEN is the most disturbing scene I’ve ever seen in any movie. Ever. I rarely feel anything when I watch movies besides mild joy or sadness, but that scene repulsed me so much that I closed my eyes and just said, “No, no, no, no, no,” over and over again. It’s something that I’ve never experienced before in any movie, nor do I ever want to again. But I’m happy that I experienced it at least once.
It's Only As Deep As You Want To Be, But Incredibly Deep If You Do Want It To Be
The first time I watched mother!, I only kind of grasped its Biblical implications. It didn’t hit me until the two Gleeson brothers arrived, and then the younger brother, played by Brian Gleeson, is killed by Domhnall Gleeson’s character. I remember thinking, hmm… this seems vaguely familiar. But then I got so stifled by all the “guests” coming in, that I forgot that thought. But later, upon reading up on the film, I found that I was right to assume the allegorical nature of the movie, and it’s only gotten more interesting since.
Sure, you could view the story as just a bad relationship, or, you could view it as the story of Creation. Ed Harris has a wound in his side. Is that from the Spear of Destiny? Is Ed Harris Jesus? Or is he Adam? Is Javier Bardem’s character God? Is that why Ed Harris’s character has come to see Javier Bardem? To be one with his creator? Another question, is Ed Harris’s character even real, or is he just a creation from Javier Bardem’s character, who is a poet after all? A poet with writer’s block. Orrrrr, is this a story about an artist, writ large? Like, is Javier Bardem’s character meant to be Darren Aronofsky himself? I don’t know how many times I’ve gone down this rabbit hole in my mind, but it’s a lot, which brings me to my final point.
It Gets More And More Impressive The More Times You Watch It
I have now seen mother! ten times. That’s more times than any recent movie I can remember. But every time I watch it, the more impressive it gets. For one thing, remember that scene with the baby I mentioned earlier? It’s now my favorite part of the movie. Because it raises the question: Are we, the religious folk, supposed to be the crowd eating the baby, kind of like people eating the son of God every weekend at church? Is that what this is? When the people brutally beat up on Jennifer Lawrence’s character, is that us destroying our mother earth?
I mean, mother! is just such a bold and audacious film, and it kind of blows my mind that it came out, and then was just quickly forgotten by the general public. Like, did I miss something here? I guess I did! But even so, mother! certainly meant something to me, and it still does today.
But what about you? Did mother! impact you as much as it impacted me? Sound off in the poll below! Oh, and even though I don’t consider mother! a horror movie, why not check out a list of upcoming horror movies coming soon to really get your blood pumping?
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.
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