Whispers of “what did I just watch?” escape the mouths of viewers leaving and commenting on Darren Aronofsky’s newest film Mother!.
This isn’t to say the film is deemed “bad” by its viewership, but rather that Mother! screams for deeper attention than your average thriller. Throughout the film you find yourself asking so many questions as to what exactly Aronofsky is alluding to with his arrangement of symbols and references.
If you are someone who enjoys a film where you can sit, watch the plot unfold seamlessly, with little personal involvement this movie is not for you. Like the majority of films made by Aronofsky, Mother! asks not only for your utmost attention but for your personal theories.
Mother! has references to biblical texts, to children books and to cult ideologies; the film gives off multiple ideas of what the overarching purpose of the film could be, but doesn’t offer any form of simple dead-end explanation. Aside from whether you want to test your power of understanding references and allusions, or are watching for enjoyment, this film is a sensory shocker.
Throughout Mother! there are moments that will send discomfort into your expression. There are times where you’ll want to look away from the screen, not because the film is horrifying, but because of the genuine awful and unsettling nature given by the characters.
With little understanding of the characters with each being nameless, the audience is never given any sort of certainty of what they are going to do. When you are not stuck slouching in your chair to find a comfort away from the weary scenes on screen, you are sitting on the edge of your seat trying to puzzle together what could possibly happen next.
Even in interviews at TIFF Aronofsky shied away from answering specific questions like what the mother was drinking.
For some, the enjoyment of this film comes down to the understanding of what the director is attempting to mimic and recreate.
Jennifer Lawrence said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, that she thinks the audience should do their research before viewing the film, “It’s better to know and understand the metaphor and allegories because then you know what you are looking at” she said.
In contrast to Lawrence’s advice, there’s a certain kind of pleasure felt in leaving the film conjuring up ideas and theories of your own.
Though the film is not to be considered a horror, it certainly is cringe-worthy and unsettling. Mother! is not for the squeamish and impatient and certainly is not made for someone who watches films through the cracks of their hands. You will miss out on an important part if you look away for too long.
There is nothing but room for imagination left as you walk out of the theatre. The answer to the whispers of “What did I just watch?” – whatever you think it might be: watch, and debate.
Horror Rating: 5