Review: 'mother!' Is Divisive with Its Gore-Filled Violence

Victoria Stuewe ‘20 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Movies Editor
Taking a risk in the film industry can either result in success with both the audience and the critics, or it can become a disaster in the box office. With its intense and incredible gore and over-the-top violence, mother! is definitely a risk. However, it is questionable as to whether it was worth taking. What starts as a horror film with themes reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby ends with a confusing, strange, toe-curling conclusion that can leave the audience with more questions than answers.
mother! centers around a couple, known as Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) and Him (Javier Bardem), who happily live in seclusion. Mother spends her time restoring their house, which was previously burned in a fire, while Him struggles to continue his writing career. Suddenly, however, a strange man (Ed Harris) arrives. The next day, his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) comes to the couple’s house as well. Before they know it, the couple’s home is filled with people, disrupting their quiet lives.

Jennifer Lawrence in mother! Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.
With its many irregularities, mother! will be not only divisive for audiences, but also—to put it simply—hard to watch. While the film does seem innocent at the start, by the end, it is able to make a person audibly gasp and squirm in their seat. Because of this, its controversial gore will, disappointingly, be the most talked about and inevitably hated aspect of the film. Due to this, most might disapprove the film, despite its thought-provoking message, which almost makes the strangeness worth the view. It is easy to tell that Director Darren Aronofsky had something profound to say, but the film’s violence could blind viewers from realizing it—or even wanting to.
Nevertheless, there are some good points throughout the film. For one, the atmosphere alone can make a person feel immediately uncomfortable. The success in tension-building is so apparent that it starts the moment the film begins, letting the audience know exactly what they are getting into—and it doesn’t disappoint.
The glaring absence of a score is also extremely successful in setting the tone of the film. The silent scenes and amplified sound effects ensure a type of unease for both the characters and the audience, perhaps even bringing viewers into the scene. It is easy to feel the extreme duress that Mother is experiencing simply by this technical choice alone. The idea was obviously intentional, but it was a smart move, as adding a soundtrack could have hindered the film’s haunting presence. It disrupts would have been an idyllic existence and immediately makes you know that something sinister is approaching.
Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem in mother! Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.
What mother! struggles with most, however, is its inability to define itself. It begins by using conventional horror movie scare tactics, but it constantly changes its modes of terror. It creates a lag between scenes during the drawn-out scenes between the strangers’ arrivals. Unfortunately, this also makes understanding the film’s message difficult. Sorting through the scenes heavy with metaphor and scenes meant merely to scare takes away from enjoying the watch. The most disappointing aspect about this is that it also distracts from the more passive form of horror that is haunting, mysterious, and where the film succeeds the most.
The unanswered questions and the ambiguous nature of the film are worth discussing afterward, but this idea can easily make a viewer angry and frustrated. It leaves you wondering whether the gore was purely for shock-factor and, thus, meaningless or whether it was deliberately done for the film’s purpose. In this way, while it is great to see an original and completely out-of-the-box film, it can leave one feeling lost and confused, wanting more answers, but never having the chance to receive any.
Overall Grade: B
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