mother! Screen 20 articles



mother! Poster
  • Artists with a gift for empathy create anticipation for new works. Artists whose single stylistic tool is shock, on the other hand, cause only dread. So it goes with mother!, Darren Aronofsky’s latest suite of seizures and my noisiest, least rewarding experience at TIFF so far. Genius is like fire in that it is born from what it burns, says Malraux, so this allegory on the malefic artistic process opens with the subtlety and maidenly restraint expected from the maker of Requiem for a Dream.

  • It begins as another irritating psychodrama from the director of Black Swan, this time about a selfish poet who mercilessly exploits his wife and muse. It ends as another repulsive parable from the director of Noah about humans ravaging Mother Earth. Determined to be powerful and elemental, it doesn’t allow the characters to have names or even personalities. They’re Archetypes with a capital A. He’s the artist as ruthless, narcissistic bastard; she’s the wife as forgiving and consoling mate.

  • It's the visually entrancing, out-of-this-world project everyone expected, yet still falls well short of its ambitions (an Aronofskyian theme if there ever was one). The film works more through images than words, and a handful of mesmerizing shots (the cinematographer is Matthew Libatique, working in 16 mm) cannot fully rescue a patchy script littered with clumsy dialogue.

  • It has very little conventional score to speak of, but every object, wall, and floorboard in the film is accounted for in the sound mix... Whenever Aronofsky’s characters earn a moment of ambiguity or nuance, his film just becomes louder and more leaden with reference.

  • The first half of Mother! is enjoyable enough, if only because it’s so beautifully photographed (by Matthew Libatique) and because it dramatizes a horror regularly experienced but only rarely represented on screen, at least not since Luis Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie... My objection is that Aronofsky isn’t much interested in his characters’ complexity or humanity, but purely in his own big concepts.

  • It's ambitious and dorky, like a Hieronymus Bosch painting redone as swirl-art. It’s entertaining to watch, because it’s not easy to see where it’s going—though you might feel a little underwhelmed when you discover where it ends up. The main reason to keep watching is Lawrence, receptive and radiant... Her face, almost celestial in its insistent hope, gets the job done. It’s as guileless as a piece of fruit still on the tree, yearning for the touch of the sun.

  • One might call it critique by way of self-obsession. The material is almost oppressively personal, from the homages—to Polanski, Eraserhead, and Days Of Heaven, among others—to the religious and environmental concerns to the seemingly self-critical characterization of Bardem’s writer as an abusive and vampiric male creative ego, prone to mood swings and craving attention... For now, one question begs to be answered: How did an American studio agree to make this film?

  • The allegory, which harkens back to continual Aronofsky themes, shouldn’t be spoiled. But it’s maybe less exciting than the one the movie kept setting me up to expect. There’s a wonderful idea in here somewhere about what artists do to their subjects, what happens when nature is fashioned into artistic form and meted out to an audience to do with as they please. Civilization is what happens. Aronofsky’s eagerness to chip away at that idea is invigorating—moreso, probably, than the actual movie.

  • It's a preposterous, self-important and utterly crass movie, of the sort I’ve come to expect from writer-director Darren Aronofsky. It is also a virtuoso performance that flexes more filmmaking muscle than almost anything else that’s appeared in a multiplex over the course of this woebegone year, a film that establishes a tone of pervasive anxiety, then sets about the task of gathering narrative kindling to be set alight in a blowout Walpurgisnacht.

  • This is an angry film for an angry time, a heavy, at times lumbering, allegorical work about woman and man, nature and God, painstakingly made from a script the writer-director claims he dashed off in five days; its unrefined, somewhat all-purpose symbolism is evidence of an almost demonic process, and its confusions, self-lacerations, and silliness would be less welcome if Aronofsky hadn’t in the process mounted the most technically impressive filmmaking of his career.

  • The cast’s intense commitment to this flamboyantly weird fairytale, along with cinematographer and longtime Aronofsky collaborator Matthew Libatique’s skillful deployment of the handheld camera to track the young wife’s psychic dissolution (or is it the world around her that’s dissolving?), make the last half of Mother! a tough watch... But Aronofksy’s skill at invoking strong sensations in the viewer can’t be denied.

  • I guess I liked this but about half the runtime I drifted into talking myself into willfully overlooking the many irredeemably dumb things about it - most notably, the use of horror tropes in the first half. Obvious, but richly human and complex in the details.

  • At times patently ridiculous, mother! is also a film that is working overtime to get its Message across. With a little bit of Polanski and a whole lot of Lars von Trier, Darren Aronofsky makes the black comedy that he always had inside him, and it's no less audacious for his having built it out of spare parts. After all, some of us have been laughing _at_ Aronofsky for quite some time, so it's refreshing to think that this time, we may be laughing _with_ him.

  • Darren Aronofsky’s churning fever dream mother! is a devouring and restless experience: a creative surge that’s like the lancing of a boil, releasing a torrent of despair and disgust for the greedy chaos of society today as well as a self-loathing portrait of the artist as an emotional succubus. Part-couched as a horror but also a wicked allegory, this is as formally provocative as it is thematically insistent, draped in horror tropes and religious overtones.

  • In through the nose, out slowly through the mouth…If you are not familiar with the Lamaze breathing technique for women in labor, acquaint yourself with it before donning your hazmat suit and embarking on Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” which uncoils from a murderously tense, tricky and claustrophobic first hour into some of the most sustained escalating insanity (and scorchingly brilliant filmmaking) ever to burn down a cinema screen.

  • I’m not much for allegory, but when the allegory comes in a cinematic package as vibrant, momentum-charged, virtuosic, and just-plain-messed-up as Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” does, I can roll with it, as they say. More than roll with it, actually. I was exhilarated and enthralled by each of the movie’s 120 minutes despite the fact that ultimately I felt only a limited affinity with what it was communicating.

  • It's an art film getting a wide release, a fascinating (and maybe doomed), stylistically radical, thematically unfriendly, and admirably batshit gamble. It doesn't tell a story so much as it feels like it offers a warped self-portrait of someone admitting there are limits to what they're willing to give, but not what they're willing to take, and in the end they can just begin again with someone else.

  • Long ago impatient with Aronofsky’s literal-minded approach to subjective cinema, I was happily surprised to settle into this seamlessly bonkers movie and its first-person view of domestic and global apocalypse. While the malleable allegory of the film’s events... has fueled both love-or-hate reactions and directorial marketing, I was riveted by the heedless spectacle and totally enveloping film technique.

  • What “Mother!” achieves, by the catastrophic reach of Aronofsky’s imagination and the grand scale of his filmmaking, is an object that fuses with its subject, a movie that thrusts its bottomless maw of voracious ambitions and desires at viewers and defies them to see his world, and their own, in it.

  • ++

    Film Comment: Violet Lucca
    January 03, 2018 | January/February 2018 Issue (p. 50)

    Far too often, critics limit their analysis to the level of narrative and character—which is probably why Darren Aronofsky's mother! was so poorly received. Its filmmaking is a PhD thesis on precision and tone: along with the formal limitations that stitch us into the Jennifer Lawrence character's head far more successfully than shaky-cam fake found footage ever could, mother! deftly juggles a series of very different types of pressures.

More Links