Mother! takes place in a world seemingly divorced from time. With the exception of a single scene where a cell phone is used, technology doesn’t even play a part. Our main character’s husband is a writer, yet only writes with ink on page, with his final product being a single square sheet of canvas. The story painstakingly follows Jennifer Lawrence as she rebuilds her husband’s gigantic house out in the middle of nowhere.
Isolated from civilization and other people for so long, when a stranger knocks on the door looking for a place to stay our main character’s husband (The Poet) invites him in for as long as he’d like. Much to the chagrin of our main character. On a side note, I am not using character names because most of the characters don’t have names. They are referred to with titles such as him, her, little brother, the Poet and goddess. Things quickly spiral out of control and this man’s entire family ends up inviting themselves over and JLaw seems to be the only person reasonable enough to wonder why she’s the only one that has a problem with this. Now, after the first party of people is dispatched the story really goes off the rails here and things go off the rails in a way seemingly unique to Aronofsky.
[SPOILERS TO FOLLOW]
Once the Poet finishes his piece and JLaw becomes the “Mother” in question, the visions that we are lead to believe are simply symptoms of whatever ailment she has come to life. The heart of the house, which Mother taps into multiple times during the story, is slowly shriveling in sequence with her decaying relationship. As the heart or soul of the house slowly dies, more and more insanity (i.e. the public) is allowed to enter and change the characteristics of the house itself.
To me, this entire story is symbolic of storytelling, and what happens to stories once they get so popular the creators don’t even really control them anymore. Look at any of the major mega franchises in the world like Star Wars or Game of Thrones. George Lucas hasn’t been the shepherd of the Star Wars franchise for decades, long before he sold the rights to Disney. Just like how the house, which is the Poet’s heart and soul, is taken over and irrevocably changed by his adoring fans. This is perfectly highlighted in the wake scene where Mother comes out of her room to find much of her house repainted with fresh paint. She rushes downstairs to find houseguests she doesn’t know repainting her home in a different color than she had chosen in a previous scene. The say something to the effect of “you’ve been so generous with us, we thought we’d give back a little.” To me, this is like when anyone but the original writer writes another entry in a well-established franchise. Look at all the Star Wars book that came out, or even the new movies. Sure, the framework we all know and love is there, but there is a new (different) coat of paint. And it will never be the same.
The Poet’s work is so transformative that even he doesn’t own the work itself anymore, the house is destroyed along with the heart of soul of his creativity (that glass heart) but an endless cycle of destruction and creation begins again. Symbolizing the spark of creation when an artist begins working on a new piece, eventually growing into maturity and letting it go out into the world to live on its own. This also reflected in the speech the Poet gives at little brother’s wake and even more brutally reflected in the scene where the legion of follows literally devour the joint creation of Mother and the Poet, their child.
Of course, all of this bonkers stuff really gets going once Mother gets off her meds, leaving an out that this is really all in her mind… or was it?
by Christopher Moore
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/09/19/review-mother/ on ScreeningClub.com.