TIFF17 | Aronofsky’s mother! is the Ultimate House Guest Horror

While many wake up bright and early on a Sunday to take ourselves to church, I found my heart racing as I joined a humungous line to watch the years most hotly anticipated horror. Almost-alert film critics from Toronto to Tokyo could be seen clutching grande latte’s at 8:30am, shuffling like zombies into the press screening for one of TIFF’s most talked about titles.

Darren Aronofsky is one of the world’s most sought after directors, an incredible talent known for crafting psychological thrillers that make us squirm in our seats. The American filmmaker best known for Pi, Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, has developed such a serious fan following that tickets to his TIFF films sell out in seconds.

In his latest offering mother!, a young pregnant woman (Jennifer Lawrence) busies herself in a grand, unfamiliar house, trying to renovate it back to life. Her new, older husband (Javier Bardem) is an award-winning author, recognized all over the world for his insight into humanity.

The film is essentially split into two parts, the first slowly building anxiety in the audience as our heroine experiences a happy housewife’s ultimate nightmare. Lawrence’s character starts to twitch when an oddball couple show up at their door. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer play two alcoholics with a dark edge, poking and prodding at Lawrence’s hospitality until a family catastrophe has her falling into a deep depression.

The second half of the film is marked by what seems like Bardem and Lawrence’s immaculate conception. After suffering a lick of writers block, the famous poet finds inspiration in his wife’s pregnancy and immediately starts scrawling his next book. Months later we spot Lawrence playing the dutiful wife, preparing a fine feast for her husband to celebrate the completion of his recent masterpiece. As the very pregnant Lawrence finishes setting the table a curious crowd arrives at the front door in search of the famous poet. The story devolves quickly, as his super fans transform into a violent cult, hellbent on stealing whatever they can from the artists home. Taking ownership of their obsession.

Aronofsky’s mother! is a horrifying psychological thriller which will most certainly have lovers and haters. Some will rave for the stellar camera-work and sublime storytelling while others will be turned off by the films fateful end – the outrageous twist will be too much for the faint at heart. I’ll leave it to the journalist sitting next to me to sum up the films immediate impression, as the credits rolled she blurted, “holy hell that was exhausting.” 

mother! is the sort of haunting film one needs to mull over as the entirety of the piece when analyzed is full of symbols and secrets. In the end, it’s an off-the-rails study of a man obsessed with his own celebrity, showcasing the harmful impact ravenous fans can have on the ones we claim to love.

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