This is one creepy mother!
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.
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 shattering finale. 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.
Director 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 Jennifer Lawrence’s character, whose discomfiture with her house guests is evident, it’s impossible to discern what’s really going on behind all those friendly smiles.
There’s 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.