Mother!

 

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Jennifer Lawrence excels yet again in a typically whacky and disturbing Darren Aronofsky nightmare.

 

Mother!

"Gone! And never called me mother!": Jennifer Lawrence

 

The exclamation mark is appropriate. This is, after all, a film by Darren Aronofsky. And Aronofsky doesn’t do things by halves. He is a great manipulator of cinema for the purposes of drama and he likes to push the envelope. Sometimes he pushes too far: witness his big-budget fiascos The Fountain (2006) and Noah (2014). But then he has also produced some virtually hallucinogenic celluloid experiences that bind the surreal to the real, like Requiem for a Dream (2000) and Black Swan (2010). His latest, a full-blooded parable about the destructive, self-serving forces of creativity, is sometimes completely barmy but is nonetheless a gripping, sometimes masterly display of directorial exhibitionism. While at times it recalls an Alan Ayckbourn thriller directed by Ken Russell, its heights of Grand Guignol never topple into the tedious. This we have to thank for the central performance of Jennifer Lawrence, who suffers for Aronofsky much the same way as Ellen Burstyn and Natalie Portman have before her.

 

Jennifer Lawrence plays the unnamed central protagonist, a young woman who is as house-proud as she is house-bound. While her husband (Javier Bardem) struggles with writer’s block, she creates a harmonious retreat in which their love can flourish. Following a fire that gutted her husband’s family home, she has completely transformed the house with an attention for the aesthetic bordering on the obsessive. However, he is her whole life and she wants, what she calls their “Paradise,” to be a perfect place to fuel his writing and thus her happiness. But, as reflected in the subtle shifts of emotion on her child-like face, their relationship is not entirely sublime. Besides the fact that he is old enough to be her father, he is not a great communicator and when he invites a stranger (Ed Harris) into their home, the first cracks begin to appear.

 

The opening scenes, while a tad self-consciously staged, are skilfully written, so that what unfolds, in spite of its theatrical absurdity, is still quite plausible. And the initial sense of reality helps to anchor Lawrence’s perspective effectively enough. What follows will not be to everybody’s taste, but one cannot deny either its originality or its power.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Brian Gleeson, Domhnall Gleeson, Stephen McHattie, Kristen Wiig, Jovan Adepo.

 

Dir Darren Aronofsky, Pro Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin and Ari Handel, Screenplay Darren Aronofsky, Ph Matthew Libatique, Pro Des Philip Messina, Ed Andrew Weisblum, Music Jóhann Jóhannsson, Costumes Danny Glicker.

 

Paramount Pictures/Protozoa Pictures-Paramount Pictures.

121 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 15 September 2017. Cert. 18.