18 Aronof­sky film is one creepy mother!

Week­end, Septem­ber 15-17, 2017 Top Hol­ly­wood cast ex­pertly main­tains sus­pense Movies

StarMetro Halifax - - WEEKEND - Peter How­ell life@metronews.ca Torstar NEWS Ser­vice

At the core of its dis­turbed and pound­ing heart, Darren Aronof­sky’s mother! is an ex­treme hor­ror movie with a top Hol­ly­wood cast.

Those who haunt mid­night cin­ema will rec­og­nize fa­mil­iar tropes: a re­mote house in the woods, a threat­ened woman, strange sounds and jump scares, vis­ceral en­gage­ment with the eye, ear and mind.

Yet fa­mil­iar doesn’t have to mean con­ven­tional. This is es­pe­cially true of the work of writer/di­rec­tor Aronof­sky, who drew dark out of light in such films as Black Swan and Re­quiem for a Dream.

Head­ing straight from TIFF to mul­ti­plexes, mother! be­gins as one type of movie; it con­cludes as some­thing else al­to­gether. A feel­ing of quiet dread at the out­set, shades of Ro­man Polan­ski, in­ex­orably pro­ceeds to­ward a fi­nale so shat­ter­ing it should be mar­keted us­ing that old B-movie hor­ror gim­mick about no­body be­ing ad­mit­ted in the last 20 min­utes.

There should at least be a warn­ing that view­ers will bear wit­ness to truly aw­ful things. The film­maker’s cau­tion that it’s all meant as an al­le­gory about cre­ation and the artis­tic im­pulse will be small com­fort to the squea­mish.

It be­gins, fol­low­ing some omi­nous fore­shad­ow­ing, with a scene of ev­i­dent tran­quil­ity. A Vic­to­rian Gothic man­sion deep in un­known woods, dif­fi­cult to ac­cess by road and limited to land­line tele­phone ac­cess, is the new home of a re­cently wed cou­ple played by Jen­nifer Lawrence and Javier Bar­dem.

She bus­ies her­self with ren­o­vat­ing and paint­ing, try­ing her best to make a home that’s also a refuge for her hus­band. He’s a fa­mous poet, fight­ing writer’s block, and he needs fresh air and con­tem­pla­tive space.

A rip­ple on calm wa­ters oc­curs when a stranger (Ed Har­ris) ar­rives at the door one night. He has mis­taken the place for a B&B, but he’s a friendly chap and he’s come a long way, so the hus­band in­sists that the trav­eller stay.

The wife is un­cer­tain about the guest, es­pe­cially when a woman (Michelle Pfeif­fer) shows up the next day, claim­ing a con­nec­tion to the ear­lier stranger. Th­ese vis­i­tors aren’t shy about mak­ing them­selves at home and ex­press­ing opin­ions.

The hus­band re­mains ev­ery bit as wel­com­ing, but the wife is start­ing to get an­noyed and states her con­cerns to her spouse. “I didn’t think it was such a big deal,” he replies, only half apol­o­giz­ing.

Vari­a­tions of that line will be heard again in the film, as more un­ex­pected guests turn up, but in fact it’s a very big deal, es­pe­cially when the wife sud­denly gets preg­nant.

Aronof­sky ratch­ets up the ten­sion by de­gree, em­ploy­ing claus­tro­pho­bic cam­er­a­work and a sound de­sign that slowly turns from min­i­mal to max­i­mal.

The cen­tral four ac­tors ex­pertly main­tain sus­pense. With the ex­cep­tion of Lawrence’s char­ac­ter, whose dis­com­fi­ture is ev­i­dent, it’s im­pos­si­ble to dis­cern what’s re­ally go­ing on be­hind all those friendly smiles.

And the wife is a puz­zle all her own — why doesn’t she leave this place? There’s no easy an­swer to that ques­tion and no quick way to de­scribe this film, which trans­fixes the mind while re­pelling the senses.

You can’t un­see this stuff — and you might well wish you could.

You can’t un­see this stuff — and you might well wish you could.


The wife (Jen­nifer Lawrence) of a fa­mous poet has her world turned up­side down when un­ex­pected vis­i­tors ar­rive on her doorstep in mother!

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