Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” is a dark and suspenseful psychological thriller that rejects ordinary cinema’s love for predictability and stoicism.
Aronofsky’s latest work follows closely in the footsteps of his past award-winning films such as “Black Swan” (2010) and “Requiem for a Dream” (2000) with its metaphysical depiction of human suffering. The film pulls viewers into its haunting story of a couple whose tranquil lives are suddenly disturbed by the arrival of strangers at their home through unflinching, visceral illustrations of psychological and physical turmoil, retaining viewers’ attentions through thrilling moments of anticipation and ambiguity.
The film’s official trailer is truly ambiguous, and Aronofsky evidently wishes for his work to outmatch viewers’ expectations of it. Undoubtedly, audiences’ imaginations will fall short in predicting the kind of eerie twists and turns within the film.
Paramount Pictures has intentionally shared very little information about the film due to Aronofsky’s wish for total secrecy leading up to its release. Interestingly, many thoughts about the film so far have come from Twitter, where Anthony Bourdain said the film is “dark, dark, dark” and unconventional. Horror-thriller writer Mylo Carbia shared her thoughts as well, declaring that the film “will be the most controversial movie since ‘A Clockwork Orange’,” adding that “it is sure to be studied in film schools for decades to come.” In various interviews, the director himself has admitted that the film is “intense” and is the darkest movie he’s made yet.
Jennifer Lawrence (“The Hunger Games” (2012), “American Hustle” (2013)) and Javier Bardem (“Skyfall” 2012), “No Country for Old Men” (2007)) portray a couple whose peaceful lives are interrupted by the unexpected arrival of a man, played by Ed Harris, (“Apollo 13” (1995), “Westworld” (2016)), and his wife, portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer (“Scarface” (1983), “Batman Returns” 1992)). The trailer only partly clarifies the reasons for the couple’s strange appearance by indicating that the man, who arrives first at the couple’s home, is in search of a place to stay. However, any helpful suggestions stop here, and viewers are left to make their own assumptions about the characters’ fates.
When Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Grace, starts to question their strange situation and hints of the older couple’s real reason for staying at their home begin to unfold, audiences start to see the complexity of Lawrence’s character emerge. This kind of unexpected and dynamic characterization is a common theme of Aronofsky’s films, and it’s clear that Lawrence’s character is no exception. While the trailer cleverly refrains from revealing too much of Grace’s emotional and psychological unrest, it’s clear that her character is far from static.
In a similar way to Natalie Portman’s role as the frighteningly dedicated ballerina, Nina, in “Black Swan,” Lawrence’s character transcends the idea of predictable female characterization. In the trailer, viewers don’t see a frightened damsel in distress waiting to be consumed by some unexpected evil, but an intelligent, questioning woman uncovering the path of a convoluted and distressing sequence of events. While Portman portrays a dancer who undergoes extreme physical and emotional change in the struggle for human perfection, Lawrence’s Grace delves deep into the complexity of the human mind, rendering her character fiercely dynamic.
Dark elements and psychological depth characterize Aronofsky’s films, which is equally evident in his critically acclaimed “Requiem for a Dream.” Jennifer Connelly’s (“A Beautiful Mind” (2001), “Labyrinth” (1986)) role as the sexually abused and drug-addicted Marion Silver is reflected somewhat in Lawrence’s character, Grace, in the sense that both women are put against odds that seem hopeless and force each to undergo intense psychological distress. While many characters in “Requiem for a Dream” simultaneously battle against drug addiction and its mental repercussions, so, too, do the characters in “mother!” struggle against a unifying object of terror and the psychological implications that result from it.
Similarly, Mickey Rourke’s role as Randy “The Ram” Robinson in Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler” (2008) echoes the same complex characterization as seen in “mother!” Rourke’s role as a fading professional wrestler who struggles with his love of fame and questionable life choices offers the same kind of gravity that Lawrence’s role does, granting audiences a genuine story marked by a consistently honest depiction of human nature.
With its strong leading cast and superior directorial guidance, “mother!” is sure to dazzle audiences and critics. Moviegoers will get to see Aronofsky’s skill in visually conveying mental and emotional complexities firsthand. Considering the success of his past films, there’s no doubt that his newest project will prove to be just as riveting and suspenseful as the rest of them.
“mother!” hits theaters nationwide on Sept. 15.