TIFF 2017: Jennifer Lawrence Navigates A Nightmarish Gauntlet In Mother!


Who’s Behind It

Writer/director Darren Aronofsky.

Who’s In It

Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Kristen Wiig.

Who’ll Love It

People who liked Black Swan but wished Natalie Portman’s character had been just a liiiiiiiittle more hysterical.

What’s It About

Mother (Lawrence) is the young, insecure wife of a much older, successful poet (Bardem) whose writer’s block has left him frustrated and unavailable. When he welcomes another couple (Harris and Pfeiffer) into their sprawling, work-in-progress home, their instability, unpredictability, and outright cruelty soon leads you to suspect that the poet requires pain or conflict to create. Pregnancy heightens Mother’s peril, as everything around her, including the home she built for her family, begins to betray her love and trust in terrible ways.

Why You Should See It

If you’ve ever had one of those nightmares where you’re sobbing your face off but no one understands (or even acknowledges) your screaming, hysterical crying fit, mother! will look very familiar to you. Don’t know what we mean? You’re lucky. It’s awful and Lawrence manages to convey just how terrible it is through her very high-emotional-octane performance. (There’s no way she got through filming without bursting blood vessels in her eyes.)

And mother! looks beautiful—the set design and cinematography work together to make a setting that should be serene and idyllic look ominous and eerie as the camera stalks Lawrence through the half-refinished house, with only the sound of her own footsteps to keep her company. Her husband is both present and absent, making him very difficult to trust but easy to suspect (of what? the movie leaves room for your mind to conjure up all sorts of things).

Like Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon, the film is interesting if viewed as commentary on fame and fandom and how the two sides feed each other (while suffocating other things) but it’s far from perfect. Some scenes are messy and even repetitive, doing nothing to advance the plot or heighten the sense of dread. The film is at its best when it’s doing its slow, quiet creepy thing. When things get hysterical, the movie comes dangerously close to caricature.

When You Can See It

Sunday, September 10 at 9:15PM (Princess of Wales); Monday, September 11 at 11:30AM (Elgin); Wednesday, September 13 at 9:30PM (Princess of Wales). Tickets available here. Opens in wide release on September 15. Check out the trailer below.