I am I. And you? You are home

I am I. And you? You are home

 

These are strange times in which we live.

On the one hand, we are deeply divided, and losing all understanding of pretense. Where we were once taught not to talk about politics or religion, nowadays that seems to be all we can talk about. What’s more, nobody seems to care who’s listening, or who might disagree.

On the other hand, we seem obsessed with known quantities; brands, messages, lifestyles. We’re not likely to see “that movie where a young homosexual boy of colour comes of age”, but we will line-up around the corner for a film whose title begins “Marvel Studios presents…”

When those two tendencies come together, we can get knocked back on our heels. Combine the outspoken nature of who we have become – the disregard for offense – with something safe like a bright shiny movie star? The results probably aren’t very likable…but that doesn’t mean they aren’t very good.

MOTHER! introduces us to The Mother and The Poet (Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem). They are a married couple, living in a spacious country house out in the middle of nowhere. He is a writer, but seems to be struggling with his work. She dedicates her waking hours to remodelling and restoring their house, taking a great deal of pride in every detail.

There are some unexplainable details to what we see of their lives early on, like why Mother has visions of a beating heart within the house walls, why she takes doses of a non-distinct golden elixer, or why The Poet’s prized possession is a large crystal.

One day The Man (Ed Harris) comes knocking late at night. He says that he’s been told the couple has rooms to let, and while Mother wants to turn him away, The Poet feels it would be inhospitable, and invites The Man in. They drink, they walk, they share stories, and The Poet even tends to The Man while he fights a late night sickness.

The next morning, The Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives. At this stage, Mother is ready to ask her new guests to leave, but The Poet implores her to be hospitable. He reveals that The Man is dying and that he is a big fan of The Poet’s work. While The Woman snoops about the house, and asks about every personal detail of Mother’s life, The Man endears himself deeper and deeper to The Poet.

Eventually, the couple breaks a prized possession of The Poet, and seems on the cusp of being told to leave.

It’s then that the couple’s grown children (Domhnall and Brian Gleeson), and get into a vicious physical altercation.

After that, things begin to get really weird…

 

Javier Bardem in MOTHER!

 

MOTHER! is a pretty blunt allegory, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Would it have been nice to spend endless days and hours trying to unravel “the meaning of the baby”? Perhaps. However, when one considers the way we have become less subtle about our positions and opinions, why do we deserve subtlety in our symbolism? We wear our colours on our sleeves, and wave them in the faces of anyone who even glances our way. We have lost the ability for discourse and dissent. Why should we ask for nuance in 2017?

In the past, we might never discuss relationship age gaps, or parenting decisions in mixed company; now it’s our opening volley at a dinner party.

The attitudes and actions of MOTHER! are abrasive, presumptuous, abhorrent, and incorrigible…but so are the times we now live in.

What’s most interesting though is that the film isn’t satisfied to hold up that mirror and let us recoil at our own reflections. That would make things uncomfortable, but perhaps not indelible. No, to really make your presence known nowadays, you need to arrive with much fanfare and not leave until the place is burnt to cinders. It requires a posse that is half Book of Revelations and half cast of a Fellini film.

Just so happens, MOTHER! has just such an approach and just such a posse.

As the final act arrives, nothing is off-limits. Every nerve most be poked, every orifice must be prodded. Every person must have their voice heard and every whim must be catered to. If that sounds exhausting and overwhelming, well…it is. What’s more, every time you think the film can’t possibly get any more bananas, it lobs another bunch.

In an age where audiences don’t flock to see films as much as they flock to see stars, it’s easy to understand why so many would feel offput by “This New Jennifer Lawrence Movie”. To that end, I would say that big movie stars have always made movies like MOTHER! and they always will. It’s a chance for them to stretch a little bit more, do “one for them”, and nowadays a chance to take of the superhero cape. Lawrence is no exception. She deserves a break from the badassery of Mystique and the brassiness of the David O. Russell roles. So if one is just looking to bask in the glow of The Planet Lawrence for two hours, MOTHER! should probably be passed over.

That said, for the brave, I can’t recommend MOTHER! any higher. It’s a movie like few others. It begins by reflecting the very worst of the both high and low-minded, and goes on to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the screen. Plenty of movies could hang their hat on one or the other; bringing together both is a rare cinematic experience.

Whether or not one “likes” MOTHER! is entirely besides the point – it’s the indelible experience of seeing it that matters. Very few movies can say that any more, and for that alone, the film succeeds.

 

Matineescore: ★ ★ ★ out of ★ ★ ★ ★
What did you think? Please leave comments with your thoughts and reactions on MOTHER!.