Mother, You May NOT!

Mother, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, is a psychological thriller entrenched with mythological elements. From director Darren Aronofsky, comes an almost epic tale about love, art, creation, and sacrifice. (Note, henceforth I shall refer to Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as JLaw and JB as their characters do not seem to have names. Also note, this post, like the movie, is very long. So buckle up!)

Mother Image

The film opens with JB methodically placing a large crystal on a wire stand. At this instant, some as of yet undefined shift sweeps through the house, and viewers are greeted with a freshly awakened JLaw, attired in a sheer nightgown with a long luxurious braid. Remember this moment, you’ll need it later.

The film gets off to a pretty slow start. The opening serves to establish JLaw and JB as a fairly newlywed couple, he is a poet dedicated to his art and she is dedicated to the restoration of their home. However, much of the movie seemed to be just a lot of dramatic breathing from JLaw, a barrage of annoying house guests that do things like throw wet laundry on the floor and paint your house against your will, and a camera full of Jennifer Lawrence’s heaving bosom. I did find myself wondering repeatedly when the film would be over. However, the real driving motion of the film is the onslaught of house guests.

The aforementioned house guests come in two waves. The first wave starts small. With just a (seemingly) lost doctor, whom JB invites to stay for the night. Next, is Michelle Pfeiffer, the doctor’s indignant, alcoholic and overly sexualized wife, who refuses to leave. When things start getting out of hand, JB weirdly refuses to kick them out, even though JLaw clearly does not want them there. Next the couple’s two sons show up and things get heated. One son murders the other with a door knob, and after the couple’s trauma, JB allows the pair to invite some close friends and family to their home. Which translates to a raucous free-for-all in which poor JLaw is left to fend off a series of comically invasive house guests, who try to use her bedroom for sex (immediately following the death of one of their close friends?) one of them follows her to the bathroom and when she is startled by his intrusion he says he is “just exploring.” The evening reaches its’ fever pitch as JLaw is being harassed by a random party guest while trying to keep two particularly pesky guests from ripping a sink off the wall. This turns out to be in vain, as the guests happily destroy the sink, causing a pipe to burst and bringing the evening to a screeching halt.

After the guests leave, JLaw gets into a fight with the increasingly frustrating JB, who accuses her of “suffocating” him. This ridiculous fight culminates with JLaw telling JB “you talk about wanting kids, but you can’t even F*** ME!” What follows is a very awkward sex scene. The next morning, JLaw wakes up, gasps, then says “I’m pregnant.” BECAUSE A WOMAN JUST KNOWS, AM I RIGHT?

After considering the circle of events leading to this moment, the death of an adult son followed by the creation of a new life, JB jumps out of bed, naked, screaming “pen! pen!” After months of floundering creatively, he has finally found the inspiration he needs to keep writing. He promptly sets to work penning his masterpiece, and viewers are lured in to a (false) sense of security that life may continue henceforth in a somewhat normal manner.

There is a kind of time-lapse after this point, and the next time we see JLaw she is heavily pregnant. She is making adjustments to the nursery (for some reason she is using the same room that the murder occurred in earlier.) She goes down stairs and JB presents her with a finished copy of his new work, which is published immediately.

JB’s new collection of poems turns out to be wildly successful. To celebrate, JLaw has donned a Greek toga-like dress (foreshadowing of events to come) and prepared a celebratory feast. As she is setting the table, she is startled to see a man knocking on her window. She stumbles around, looking for JB, and finds him on the front porch. Although, they live seemingly in the middle of nowhere, he has amassed a small crowd of followers and admirers, complete with a photographer. The crowd adores JB’s work, and JB is perfectly at home, signing copies, answering questions and taking photos. And cue the second onslaught of unwelcome guests. They quickly invade the house, lay waste to JLaw’s feast and almost immediately begin stealing what they can and breaking the house apart. This party quickly spirals out of control, and it becomes more and more apparent that everyone present worships JB. They begin referring to him with reverence as “The Poet,” and to JLaw as “The Inspiration.” One follower begins leading a hedonistic dance ritual around the framed original copy of JB’s new work. Another, begins a religious right for followers in which they repeat a verse of his poetry, have ash smudged on their foreheads, and then tack a photo of him to the wooden planks that seal off the door to his study.

Just as the audience is beginning to gather that a cult is forming, with JB as the leader, the gathering quickly breaks off into various sects. JB’s publisher (Kristen Wiig of all people,) heads up the most violent sect. She has orchestrated groups of women to be caged, then released one by one, bags are tied over their heads, they are laid down on the floor and then executed. Just as she catches JLaw observing her machine-like method of sacrifice, she turns and says “Oh Good, the inspiration. Kill her,” shortly before a tank (???) plows through the wall signifying police interference and the beginning of an all out war. JLaw is now in labor, she’s trying desperately to claw her way to freedom but she is intercepted again and again either by JB’s followers or police who think she may be dangerous. Finally, she encounters an officer who recognizes that she is in labor and seems like he might help her. Before he can get her out, his head is blown off and JB shows up (wearing a GAS MASK) and carries JLaw upstairs to his study, against her will.

However, the movie climaxes when JLaw finally, squeezes out that damn baby (hello 5 straight minutes of screaming and grunting into the camera.) JLaw literally sits on the floor and poops him out, but somehow the baby is delivered successfully. There’s nothing to wash him off with, no towels, I’m not even sure how the umbilical cord gets cut, and what happens to the after birth? They just wrap the baby in a dirty blanket that’s been lying around, then some of Javier Bardem’s followers send the very helpful “gifts” of a fruit basket and a pitcher of drinking water. Later they send fresh clothes for JLaw. After an intense stare down with JB, who CANNOT be trusted, JLaw falls asleep and he promptly snatches the baby and delivers him to his waiting followers who happily butcher and eat him.

And this is when the movie kind of clicks into place. JLaw sets the house on fire, killing everyone except for her and JB. JB manages to escape entirely unscathed and pulls a very charred JLaw from the wreckage. Whilst in his arms she asks “where are you taking me,” “to the beginning,” he replies, because he has never been capable of being anything other than cryptic throughout the duration of the film. She asks “what are you,” and his response is “I am I,” which, frankly is the most cliché moment of the whole damn movie. Literally any response would have been more satisfying. Finally, he lays her down on the dining room table as he prepares to consume her completely. The final sacrifice to the beast within him. He opens her chest and removes her heart, grinds it down to obtain the delicate crystal at it’s center. Which, is exactly like the one we saw him methodically placing at the beginning of the movie. Now he can place it on his shelf, and reset the entire cycle. It is now that viewers finally understand what JB is and what has fueled the film. He is a hungry, greedy, vain God, fueled by the love and admiration of his followers.

This movie is long. At times it seems to drag on and on and on. It’s a lot of showing, and very little telling. As a result, this film does not move quickly. At times, it seems a little overwhelming. The myriad of unwanted house guests becomes tedious and cumbersome, tiring the audience. However, all of this showing is essential to achieve that final moment of understanding, to gain clarity about the movie’s driving force.




Author: Lee Ann Fryman

Lee Ann is a poet, fiction writer, and blogger located in Lexington, Kentucky. She received an MA in English from Northern Kentucky University, and has BAs in Theatre and English from Morehead State University.

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