|Starring||Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Briain Gleeson, Stephen McHattie|
|Release||15 SEP (US) 15 SEP (UK) Certificate 18|
Mother! is equal parts home invasion thriller and fraught relationship drama, teasing and inviting horror tropes like houseguests and placing the resulting strain squarely on Lawrence's shoulders. Aronofsky keeps his viewfinder trained intimately and uncomfortably on his lead actress; with the tight focus on her youthful face (it's worth pointing out she's still, somehow, only 27 years old), Lawrence wears the camera like a millstone around her neck. Framed as a meek audience surrogate, reacting to the intensifying madness as anyone would, hers is an insular but deeply affecting performance that will speak loudly to anyone who lives their life through the lens of anxiety.
Aronofsky purposefully keeps the screenplay sparse, dialling back the dialogue to let uncomfortable silences do the talking; the complete vacuum of a score echoes loudly throughout the house's empty rooms. For a brief moment, when Michelle Pfeiffer's brazen hussy enters the house and proceeds to get sozzled on alcopops, mother! threatens to become an arthouse odd couple comedy, but there's always an undercurrent of discomfort bubbling beneath the surface - and it's not long before it erupts spectacularly, like an episode of Grand Designs pitched on the edge of the Seventh Circle of Hell.
Mother! can be read in many different ways - as a comment on the cycle of abuse, as a Bible allegory, an ode to the perils of motherhood, as a warning to anyone planning an open-invite house party - but whichever way you stomach it, it is quite simply one of the most relentlessly intense, gut-churning portrayals of escalating madness ever captured on screen. Lawrence, fragile and porcelain, has never felt more vulnerable, while the grinning face of Javier Bardem - who has the profile of an Easter Island statue wrapped in ham - is more frightening here in his placidity than he ever was as an out-and-out villain.
Mother! is not a film to which you will have a middling reaction: you may be deeply shocked, you may be appalled, you will more than likely have a hot take but you won't be bored. Aronofsky has captured something primal here; some deep-seated, three-inceptions-deep, subconscious level scary shit that you didn't even know was festering down there. I kept thinking back to that familiar dream state - that kind of heart-pounding, out-of-control, breathless horror that snaps you awake - and then realised that the experience of watching mother! was exactly that: a waking nightmare.
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