Pretoria News Weekend - - FILM - LINDSAY BAHR

WOMEN give, men take and the Old Tes­ta­ment crashes into mod­ern anx­i­ety in di­rec­tor Darren Aronof­sky’s Mother!

It is an au­da­cious, bold and fas­ci­nat­ing fever dream of a film. It’s an al­le­gory for, well, ev­ery­thing (the en­vi­ron­ment, mar­riage, art, spir­i­tu­al­ity, you name it!), that will chal­lenge, distress and ed­ify any­one who chooses to sub­mit them­selves to this cre­ation for two hours.

Like many Aronof­sky en­deav­ours, Mother! doesn’t fit neatly into one genre. It starts out as a sort of psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller and cham­ber drama about a cou­ple liv­ing in a stately and re­mote home, and de­volves grad­u­ally and then very sud­denly into jaw-drop­ping chaos that al­most seems to be test­ing the viewer.

How much of Jen­nifer Lawrence’s suf­fer­ing can you take be­fore cov­er­ing your eyes? Or storm­ing out of the theatre?

This film begs for a view­ing un­en­cum­bered by lengthy sum­mari­sa­tion. It’s not that it de­fies ex­pla­na­tion, what hap­pens is fairly straight­for­ward as far as night­mare logic is con­cerned. But the less you know the bet­ter.

The set­ting is a grand Vic­to­rian home. There lives a mar­ried cou­ple (Lawrence and Javier Bar­dem), and it is peace­ful and bright.

Then one night, a strange man (Ed Har­ris) comes to the door. Bar­dem’s char­ac­ter, a fa­mous poet suf­fer­ing ex­treme writer’s block, in­vites him in, and the par­adise Mother has so painstak­ingly cre­ated be­gins to crum­ble. The next day, the man’s wife (a wickedly funny Michelle Pfeif­fer) shows up too. Mother, while try­ing to be po­lite and a good host­ess, is be­wil­dered by the sud­den changes and her own hus­band’s ap­par­ent dis­in­ter­est in her ob­jec­tions to these strangers oc­cu­py­ing their home.

This sec­tion is re­ally quite funny, as Mother grap­ples with her ab­sent hus­band and rude house guests who drink their liquor, break their valu­ables and ask in­va­sive ques­tions about why she doesn’t yet have chil­dren.

It is a host’s worst night­mare, and it gets worse for poor Mother – the only sane per­son around, who of course is pre­des­tined to be driven crazy by ev­ery­one else.

Aronof­sky has a spe­cial ap­pre­ci­a­tion for hy­per­bolic de­pic­tions of fe­male mad­ness and suf­fer­ing, whether it’s an age­ing woman look­ing to lose a few ki­los in Re­quiem for a Dream, a bal­le­rina striv­ing for per­fec­tion in Black Swan, or a wife just look­ing to make an im­pec­ca­ble home for the per­son she loves in Mother!

It is a tense and ex­cit­ing film, one of Aronof­sky’s best, and Lawrence has never been bet­ter. Hers is a truly stun­ning per­for­mance full of beauty, em­pa­thy and rage at her own pow­er­less­ness, and the greed and ap­a­thy spi­ralling out of con­trol around her.

Mother! de­mands to be seen more than once, and af­ter­wards dis­cussed and dis­sected. I’d also rec­om­mend watch­ing the cred­its for the names of the other char­ac­ters who come into their lives.

My heart has not stopped its anx­ious pound­ing, nor my head from spin­ning since see­ing this film.

Mother, may I have a Xanax? – AP

DIS­TURB­ING: Jen­nifer Lawrence and Javier Bar­dem

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