Mother! (2017)

by Afra Nariman

Mother! (2017)

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfieffer, Ed Harris, Brian Gleeson


“I’ll just get started on the apocalypse.” 

Whew. Okay, that was a lot. It’s probably too soon for me to be able to formulate anything too coherently about the film, but I’m going to try and just get some thoughts out. I sense the film is open to countless interpretations, and there are various layers to the film as well. I can see why some people could have issues with this film, but it worked for me. Going to write not necessarily on the Mother Earth allegory typically discussed in conversations about the film; but instead on how I viewed it while watching. 

Rooted in absurdity in ways somewhat reminiscent of the cyclical satire of Luis Buñuel, but via the form of a psychological thriller, Mother! is an unnerving and critical portrayal of postmodernist society, thus partly speaking to society’s perpetuation of the patriarchy, and to a degree by the end, also it’s dangerously blinding obsession with the myth of celebrity — and how this obsessive quality that has become inherent in our culture only further hinders the potential for humanity’s progress. In many ways too, Mother! is a dichotomous examination of ego and the loss of identity. 

The endless stream of strangers who enter the protagonist’s (played by Jennifer Lawrence) “home” are representative of society as a whole. The build-up of the film’s critical postmodernist commentary begins quietly, but gradually crescendos into a finale that sees every vice and negative quality of the obsessive, selfish, materialistic, inhumane, and patriarchal society, completely overwhelm Jennifer Lawrence’s character, her home, and the filmic world indicative of our own.

Just as society is always “growing,” or more accurately, expanding, and with this the negative attributes of it continually seep into individual’s lives, the strangers who invade Jennifer Lawrence’s home continue to come at what becomes a rapidly accelerating rate — bringing all of their issues, peculiarities, discourtesies, and beliefs with them. In the real world, more people are added to “society” each day, which further strengthens the overwhelming nature of all of society’s negative characteristics, including the patriarchal aspects of it. Similar to the gradually expanding class gap caused by a society predicated on capitalism; the patriarchy’s influence on impacted individuals also rapidly continues to overwhelm, and does so more and more with each passing day. As the presence of “society” increases in Jennifer’s home, she is further suppressed, isolated, and alienated from expressing her individuality and her identity.

Such a society as ours, and that which is represented in the film, expects women to minimize themselves or silence their individuality to make room for others, but as we see is the case of Mother!, there is not the same expectation of men. Near the end of the film, after Jennifer Lawrence’s character gives birth while her home has become a battleground of society’s worst vices, she desperately asks her husband, Javier Bardem’s character, to “make the strangers leave.” To this, he responds: 

“I don’t want them to go.”

Our society benefits men, thus he doesn’t want society’s, or the patriarchy’s presence to “leave.” The presence of these systems, while being generally beneficial for men, are often a dangerously suppressive presence for women. We see Jennifer Lawrence experience this in the film; and it is cemented in how the film ends, with Bardem’s character maintaining the values of this society by literally building upon the extracted life-force of Jennifer Lawrence’s character, after she has had everything taken from her and all the life sucked out of her. In other words, “society” and the values it generally upholds, can have a soul-crushing effect on the lives of women; and such a society is cyclically built upon the lives of the women it simultaneously suppresses.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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