Mother! – May I Please Get an Explanation?

Hello, SC Nation!  I was super excited when Jay Roach put me up for a chance to review horror movies for Spoiler Country, as I love horror movies, and I love writing, and I love hearing myself talk about my own opinions. 

So, upon hearing this news, I thought to myself, in true Sara fashion

What would be the most difficult, the most complex, the most thought-provoking horror movie that I could review in a very annoyingly long first article?

Sara, upon hearing the above news.

I immediately thought of Mother! (2017), written and directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem.  If you’re looking for an easy-watching horror flick with straight forward plot-lines culminating to a logical conclusion, you might want to skip this one.  However, if you’re in the mood for a disturbing festival of mayhem and frustration that leaves you wondering who laced your chamomile tea with ketamine, I encourage you to give this movie a try.

Illustration by James Jean

The film opens with the image of a woman (clearly not Jennifer Lawrence) on fire.  A magnificent house is torched and charred around her.  A beautiful crystal is set upon a pedestal, which initiates the reconstitution of the house.  It is then that Veronica (Jennifer Lawrence) is introduced to the audience.  She lives in this home with her husband (Javier Bardem), a passionate writer, somewhat of a drama king, and a man who is never named with the exception of “Him” in the credits.  (It’s for this reason that I’ll refer to him as “Bardem” moving forward.) 

As the movie continues, a strange family arrives at the house one member after the other – father, mother, elder brother, and younger brother.  These are not named either.  Veronica clearly wants them all to leave.  However, Bardem insists – very oddly – that they have nowhere else to go.  A tragic death occurs within this strange family, and shortly after (about an hour), a gathering in the dead man’s honor is held at Veronica’s house – much to her shock and dismay.  It’s a very strange encounter with these people – all showing up with food items and dressed properly for a funeral, leaving the audience, and surely Veronica, asking themselves when they’ve had the time to pull this all together in such short notice.  Mayhem ensues with these strange people, including two individuals breaking her kitchen sink, and another deciding to paint their house. 

Following this crazy funeral, a glimmer of light appears – Veronica discovers that she is pregnant.  Bardem is overjoyed, and within a few months, writes the masterpiece of his life.  During their private dinner celebration of his latest work, a new strange crowd arrives at their doorstep, enthralled with Him and his masterpiece.  It is at this point that all hell breaks loose. 

More and more people arrive, flooding the house.  They begin looting to have a piece of the great author’s life.  A precious artifact of unknown history is discovered and turned into a sacred staff.  People start chanting.  In each room, a new horror emerges.  People being consecrated with ash in the author’s name.  People throwing raves.  People. Literally. Everywhere.  Police arrive in riot gear.  Gunshots are fired.  Explosions.  Mass assassinations.  And amidst it all, Veronica goes into labor.  Spoiler alert – it’s a boy.

Obviously concerned for her child’s well being amongst the throngs of lunatics currently inhabiting her home, she refuses to let her son be held by anyone, including her husband.  But alas, sleep overtakes the new mother, and her husband absconds into the house with the baby.  The author’s worshipers immediately begin passing the baby around, and as a result, break his neck.  In Veronica’s panicked attempts to get to her son to rescue him, she finds that not only has he been murdered by her husband’s “worshippers”, but they have also taken it upon themselves to – yes, you’re hearing me correctly – eat him.  As any mother would, Veronica flies into a rage and sets the entire house ablaze, killing everyone except Him, who we find has remained untouched by the fire.  Veronica’s final gift to her husband before perishing?  Her heart, which he plucks from her chest with his bare hands, and crushes to find another beautiful crystal inside.

There are some interesting artistic choices that Aronofsky makes in the filming of Mother! which should be mentioned before digging into the analysis of the movie.  The first of these is the camera angle from which the majority of the movie is filmed, which I can only describe as being uncomfortably close to Veronica.  It immediately fostered a feeling in me of being…well, for lack of a better term, all up in her grill.  The audience is literally forced to invade Veronica’s personal space throughout the entire movie, whether we like it or not.  Another is the film’s wonky reality and timeline.  Nothing seems too out of the ordinary in the beginning, with the exception that everything happens too quickly.  A boy is killed in the house by his brother, and very shortly afterwards, several individuals are showing up at the house to take place in his funeral.  No more than 5 minutes after Bardem announces that he has completed his most recent writings, his publisher calls to inform him that they loved it.  This type of timeline is dream-like in a sense, and is done with purpose on Aronofsky’s part, most certainly.  

I’ve heard several analyses of this film, two of which hold some serious merit for me.  The first came from a friend I’ve worked with previously on a local paranormal investigation team in New Jersey.  She saw some very pointed references to religion, and the moment that she stated this theory, I could kind of see it.  An author who’s written word moves needy individuals to irrational levels of worship…a son honored and revered, and yet brutally and ritualistically devoured by said author’s followers…are these loose references to Christianity?  The only thing that I can’t reconcile with this theory is the focus on Veronica’s frustration and ultimate destructive rage.  How does this fit in with the religious theory?  Is she supposed to represent an evil character, like Satan?  Bardem, the god figure in this scenario, is the only individual who survives the fire unscathed, so this could check out.

The second, however, is the one that I find the most compelling, and which was explained to me by a friend who works in the child and family counseling field.  She described the movie as a metaphor for Narcissism, and I personally am on board with this theory.  Everything in this film focuses on the greatness of Bardem’s character, and how much Veronica tries to do for him to keep him happy and feeling creative.  (Even though, as husbands go, he clearly doesn’t deserve it.)  He claims to feel sorry for the people arriving at his home – for their loss, for their mistakes, for their desperation to see him and touch him – but does he really?  It seems to me that he enjoys this adoration, and refuses to turn them away, even though this will eventually cost him the lives of his wife and son.  Like a true Narcissist, he consumes everything and everyone around him to achieve the love and devotion that he feels he deserves, until his own actions have burnt them all to the ground.   To quote Bardem in the final moments of the film, “Nothing is ever enough; I couldn’t create if it was.”

These two potentials aside, I’m sure that there is a plethora of other theories out there – things that I haven’t even thought of yet.  Is it something mythological?  Environmental?  Who knows?  If you have a theory, drop a comment below; I’d love to hear it.  At the end of the day, I absolutely can’t get enough of this film’s funky, disturbing take on horror, and I encourage anyone with that same funky sense to watch it.  But if that’s not your thing, maybe skip it, and watch The Godfather instead. 

Stats

Illustration by James Jean

Budget: $30 million
Domestic Total Gross: $17,800,004
Foreign Total Gross: $26,716,995
Total Box Office Gross: $44,516,999  
Starring: Jennifer LawrenceJavier BardemEd Harris
Directed: Darren Aronofsky
Written:  Darren Aronofsky
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: September 15, 2017
Genre: Drama / Thriller
Runtime: 2 hrs. 1 min.
MPAA Rating: R Production 

Author: Sara Varner

Sara was born and raised in Central Pennsylvania, where she spent most of her days pursuing community theater ambitions and attending the local Arts Magnet School for Theater Arts. Following graduation, she moved to Orlando, FL and then to Memphis, TN before finally settling in Central New Jersey. (Yes, it’s a real place.) It was here that she raised her daughter, a true Jersey girl, on horror movies and stalker shows. In her early 30s, Sara decided to follow her passions for the paranormal and join a local investigation team, quickly moving through the ranks and becoming Director of Investigations. After 3 years, she decided to put this love on hold to complete her degree in Forensic Psychology (to be continued...).

A practicing Pagan, Sara enjoys all things horror related and anything strange or macabre. Her hobbies are studying the paranormal, binging true crime shows, watching Markiplier play horror games on YouTube, and wood burning.

3 thoughts on “Mother! – May I Please Get an Explanation?

  • October 15, 2019 at 12:36 pm
    Permalink

    I had no idea this was even a movie until reading this. It sounds….interesting. Though the posters are pretty amazing.

    Reply
    • October 15, 2019 at 2:27 pm
      Permalink

      John, you should check it out! It’s super weird…and if you enjoy your personal space, it’s terrifying lol!

      Reply

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