I heard a podcast about Mother! about a month ago, but apparently none of it stuck with me. I remember the vague sensation of “Oh, I’d like to see that,” but cannot recall any of the conversation around what the movie was about.
That may also be because it’s almost impossible to say what it’s about. (I’m also finding it impossible to say if I liked it. Or not.)
In a very poor summary of what Mother! is, it is a movie about a woman (Mother) and her husband (Him) who is, from what we can gather, an extremely talented poet going through a terrible bout of writer’s block. They live together in a gorgeous mansion in the middle of nowhere, surrounded only by forest.
From the beginning, as the viewer, you have the sense that everything should be okay in such a serene setting, but it’s not. Their relationship is awkward and strained, with Mother (played by Jennifer Lawrence) appearing somewhat like a hurt puppy: she’s devoted, but endlessly disappointed.
Without giving away any spoilers, their seemingly tranquil life is interrupted by the visit of a doctor and his family. These strangers’ unexpected visit quickly derails into chaos, completely disrupting the life, and relationship, of Mother and Him. In the turmoil, however, Him is able to break through his writing block and produce another memorable poem.
This is where the film lost me a bit. After Him’s grand success with his latest poem, what follows is a long series of very intense, often aggressive and violent, and eventually religious, imagery. My interpretation here was twofold: one, it’s a commentary on the role of the artist in society. Artists are often glorified by society as a whole, but the creative process can be a very selfish one. In extreme cases, it can be abusive and misogynistic, but rarely does that change how society looks at the artist.
Two, the religious imagery reminded me much of the role of women in many religions today. Him keeps referring to Mother as a goddess — though she acts more as a muse — but people only glorify Him, the male character, to the detriment of Mother, on an emotional, physical, spiritual, and psychological level. She is ignored and betrayed by society as a whole.
This is where I’m stuck on how I feel about the film. I appreciated it while I was watching. There were moments when the suspense played extremely well, without being overdone. Yet, if we’re critiquing artists here, I’m disappointed by the usual gender play (man creates, woman inspires). Unless, that’s part of the critique, in which case, even better. However, I don’t think the film quite hit the right note if that was the intention — with all of the chaos in the center of the storyline, some of that intended meaning may have gotten lost.
Nevertheless, if you like obsessive, cerebral, visually interesting and intense movies, check out Mother! It’s difficult to watch and is the type of story to stay with you for days after. (I even had a dream about it, I was clearly thinking about it so much!) I’d be curious to hear what others think, too — both of the intended meaning and the movie as whole.