starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer
written and directed by Darren Aronofsky
by Walter Chaw Darren Aronofsky's mother! seeks to explain the ways of God to Man in an allegory of the monstrousness of the creative impulse that plays at once as apologia and barbaric yawp-cum-mission statement; imagine if Aronofsky adapted Paradise Lost. It's The Giving Tree and Harlan Ellison's "Try a Dull Knife" as told by Buñuel and Ken Russell: a marriage of essential truth with exceptional excess--a work of genuine arrogance and pretension. The picture aspires to answer large questions, to lay bare the heart of the artist, and it has as few apologies to offer as it does fucks to give. It's unpleasant to the point of unwatchability--an instant entry into the films maudit hall of fame, predicting a popular failure and critical evisceration that are at least in part something Aronofsky must have expected, given how dedicated mother! is to destroying pleasure, to refusing the breast that its unnamed female protagonist (we'll call her X, in honour of Joan Fontaine's similarly anonymous heroine from Rebecca), played by Jennifer Lawrence, offers her infant in one of the multifarious religious tableaux that litter the piece. In fact, were the film a river to be crossed, the stones you'd step on would all be depictions of holy martyrs and Madonnas. In this way, it resembles Children of Men--even through to its long urban war and siege sequence, which mother! replicates during its feverish conclusion. It resembles Viridiana, of course, and The Exterminating Angel. It resembles all the great symbolist films because it's one of them.