Darren Aronofsky is a modern master of the psychological thriller, from Pi and Requiem for a Dream early in his career to Black Swan, which earned him an Oscar nomination. Aronofsky's latest film, Mother!, is another dive into the fraying minds of its protagonists — with a much more horror-based approach than his previous films.
While its marketing campaign has been equally mysterious and eye-opening, this has generated plenty of buzz from audiences and critics.
Mother! follows a young couple (#JenniferLawrence and #JavierBardem) who let a pair of strangers (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) into their quaint country home ... which, judging from the trailers, is a huge mistake, as malevolent forces of some kind follow.
Reviews are beginning to pour in from critics who've seen advance screenings, and they are overwhelmingly positive; currently Mother! holds a 92 percent aggregate score from Rotten Tomatoes with 13 reviews in. Aronofsky's latest spiral into disturbed madness is getting off to a great start.
While Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter praises the film for its production design and intimate cinematography, he singles out the performances as the most engaging aspect:
"There’s certainly no faulting the actors, who, with the exception of the excellent and always audience-engaging Lawrence, all trigger a significant measure of creepiness. Bardem is dominant and, when necessary, warm and winning... Harris and Pfeiffer up the ante with very keen turns as the couple that show up with no intention of leaving."
Jessica Kiang of The Playlist also writes that the performances are a highlight of the film, particularly Lawrence's:
"In any other actress’ hands, the role might be too frustratingly passive and timorous to relate to, but Lawrence is so wholly committed that it actually morphs into something far more unusual: a portrait of the trophy wife of a Great Man from the point of view of the trophy, and a deeply sympathetic first-person account of the terrors of being vastly younger and less socially confident than the person you love.
Aronofsky himself is receiving some of the highest praise for the film, with many critics proclaiming that he's made the most WTF movie of the year — and has put everything he has onto the screen with its wild third act. Here's the BBC's Jamie East:
Owen Gleiberman of Variety had a very mixed response to the film, finding the performances and direction to be superb but the story to be "shallow" and "about everything and nothing," even though he has praise for Aronofsky:
If the only thing we wanted, or expected, a horror film to do was to get a rise out of you — to make your eyes widen and your jaw drop, to leave you in breathless chortling spasms of WTF disbelief — then Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” would have to be reckoned some sort of masterpiece ... Considering the number of cruddy recycled horror movies made by hacks that score at the box office, the film is almost destined to be a success, maybe even a “sensation,” because Aronofsky is no hack — he’s a dark wizard of the cinematic arts.
Both the positive and negative reactions highlight the the third act of the film as its darkest and the most ambitious part. More reviews will likely hit Rotten Tomatoes soon, but for now, it's sounding like Aronofsky has crafted a quite intense moviegoing experience.
Mother! hits theaters on September 15. Will you be seeing it?