By Jonathon Potochnic

A young man finds himself toiling away at his job just like every other Friday. A slow Friday he finds himself in. He has an article to write, a movie review that is, but his job keeps him from both the movie and the review.

The young man’s manager approaches him and tells him to leave for the night.

Suddenly, the opportunity is there. The young man sprints for dear life. He has only 20 minutes to cover a mile, hitch a ride and buy his ticket at the theater. He’ll forget to eat the food he had in his hand from work. He adjusts his three-sizes-too-small work shirt to cover his protruding stomach and begins to question the situation.  

“What the heck am I doing?” he asks himself. “I haven’t heard anything about ‘mother!’. I’ve avoided other professional reviews, but I did see this movie has a 70 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Why am I working so hard for a movie that I’ll probably give a 7 or 7.5 out of 10?”

Despite his internal conflicts, the young man makes it in time for the movie. He is able to use the restroom and see about 1.4 movie previews before the expectedly average movie starts. The film opens with its first shot, and from then on, the young man’s 7.0 expectation rises to a 7.7, and then an 8.3. The trend continues upwards.

I won’t tell you where the score ends, you’ll have to see for yourself.

What is “mother!”? The question will haunt viewers for a very long time. There is not really an answer or an individual one at least. To ask this question is to entirely miss the point that writer-director Darren Aronofsky has created.

The answer is more reflective and introspective: What does “mother!” mean to you? Most who see this production will have a different answer. The risks taken and the shock created will leave just as many in hatred as those who find themselves in awe during the runtime and credits. I certainly left in awe.

I could go into details of the story, but I wouldn’t know where to start. Aronofsky ties a standard narrative of a man and a woman in a isolated house of paradise. The man, known only in the script as “him”, is a struggling poet portrayed expertly by Javier Bardem. The main character, “mother”, is played by Jennifer Lawrence.

Where the story goes from here is a wild and haunting adventure that ties in themes of religion, environmental care, colonialism, sections of the Bible and even the Greek goddess Gaea to name a few.

What’s even more unique is the amount of ambiguity that the narrative carries. Another viewer could easily name other alternatives to what the story covers. The true beauty of “mother!” lies in its personal perceptiveness.

The cinematography, color and shot selection of the movie were initially very off-putting. Constant close-ups offer little breathing room and force each scene to be viewed in an intimate manner. The color choices of the movie are often very dark and muted. There is not an occasion in the movie where you are without anxiety.

Part of this has to do with what was previously mentioned, but it must be equally, if not more, attributed to the mesmerizing performance given by Lawrence. What begins as a strong exercise in studied subtlety turns to well projected anguish as the plot heats up with disturbing attacks of terror and paranoia. She gives this movie everything. You will understand after the entirety of the third act. It may very well net her another award for best actress.

Sound design is generally seen as an unintrusive art. If it’s unnoticed, then it’s well made; it’s subject to criticism if done badly. The sound design of “mother!” is a rare example of when I was noticeably impressed by the layering and mixing of the audio. It lends so much to the tension of the film. The house creaks and whispers, objects collide or break with a punctuating ring and the voices and breaths of each character are expertly captured. Despite having an erratic plot and fantastical elements, the film feels remarkably real.

Discussing the flaws of this film is a curious task to say the least. Extreme tone and pacing shifts, lack of direct answers and disturbing content are often flaws of other movies, but with “mother!”, these issues actually have reason within the script and final product. These issues are meant to challenge and unsettle the viewer by contradicting standard film rules.

The same can be said of the alarmingly grotesque nature of the third act. The last movie to evoke such emotions and controversy was a Kubrick film. As with Kubrick, I was initially frustrated with the direction of say “The Shining” or the context of “A Clockwork Orange”, but in the end, they are masterpieces that force us to think differently and change our perception.

Risky and poetic, Darren Aronofsky has created a completely mesmerizing dream of a film (which can also be said for his 2010 film “Black Swan”). So much is seemingly established in the subconscious and surreal. “mother!” is less labyrinthine in form and more open-minded. The movie creates a strong intimacy due to stellar acting, constant close-ups and superb performances. All in all, “mother!” is a defiantly artistic masterpiece that will challenge viewers for years to come.

And it was well worth the uphill battle to see it.

9.7/10 "Masterpiece". Profound and important, the risks pay off in this imaginative and haunting success.

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