“Howl to the moon” was the phrase Darren Aronofsky used to opaquely describe his feelings behind mother!, an impeccably mounted, nearly impossible-to-digest-on-one-viewing allegory for the folly of mankind. And truly, love it or absolutely f*cking hate it, mother! can really only be described in that phrase.
To speak much about the story of mother! is a spoiler. What can be said, however, is that mother! is an equivalent to Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, but without the hope for life that Malick’s film glowed with. Rather, Darren Aronofsky’s film presents itself as a damning critique of many things, including, but not limited to religion, celebrity and marriage.
The brazenness of it all comes from the fact that mother! is obvious in its ambitions, but refuses to hold viewers’ hands, forcing them to confront its precipitous descent into humanity’s darkest depths.
Much admiration must be lobbed toward the stunning work of Aronofsky regular Matthew Libatique, whose cinematography is tightly framed here, and the incredible sound mixing crew, who, without any score, build a palpable sense of dread from everything that happens off-screen.
Most impressively, though, is Academy Award-winning Jennifer Lawrence’s ability to command the screen so effortlessly. The willingness of Lawrence to literally and figuratively bare it all, physically and emotionally, in this film is absolutely commendable, but that framing nearly verges toward exploitative. However, the film’s dirtiness and its treatment of her character is what the film asks viewers to ponder as they leave the theater.
Is mankind worth saving, or are we all doomed to destroy the things we should be loving and taking care of the most? Aronofsky refuses to give an answer, even if he suggests a pessimistic view. For cinephiles who like their films that way, mother! may stand as a landmark for years to come.
Featured image via Paramount.