Did you ever have one of those days that started out pretty normal, but then things started to get a little weird? Maybe a stranger shows up unexpectedly, which wouldn’t be that bad, but your husband invites him to stay… and the stranger turns out to be stranger than you thought, but your hubbie seems pretty chummy with him. Yeah, you know that kind of day… the stranger’s wife shows up next, and she’s even farther off-kilter than her husband, but maybe you’re just being oversensitive. Then some other people show up, and some violence happens, and even more people show up, and things are breaking and people are dying and you seem to be the only one that just wants things to go back to the way they were….
Come to think of it, I haven’t had one of those days, but I’ve certainly had nightmares that feel like that, and that’s what I enjoyed about writer/director Darren Aronofsky’s bizarre new film mother! Jennifer Lawrence stars as a woman living with her older husband (Javier Bardem) in a big sprawling country house. She has been restoring the house with her own two hands while he, a poet, struggles to break through his writer’s block. When a man (Ed Harris) shows up, claiming he thought it was a bed-and-breakfast, the husband invites him to go ahead and stay overnight. The visitor claims to be a doctor, after all; what could possibly go wrong?
It turns out a great many things could go wrong, and they do, as more and more people intrude into the woman’s house, seemingly oblivious to the damage they’re doing to the home, her psyche and her relationship. For a bit, mother! feels like one of those Twilight Zone episodes where the protagonist can’t believe that nobody else recognizes how nutso things have gotten. But the last half-hour or so is a full-on assault: on the house, on the woman and on our senses, as Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan), keeping Lawrence’s character at the center, surrounds us with a noisy, terrifying confusion of horrors from every angle.
I struggled with what grade to give mother! I honestly didn’t really understand it while watching; only when a post-viewing article clued me in on some of the intended metaphors did it make sense. And even giving it a “B,” I can’t say I’d recommend it to most, but those who want to witness a mesmerizing performance by Lawrence, and pure audaciousness from Aronofsky, should check it out (though some spoilers might even help in this case).