Review / ‘mother!’ (MA) ** and a half

IN a return to independent filmmaking, writer/director Darren Aronofsky asks his audience to discover its own explanation for what he’s trying to say.

In a dilapidated house in the middle of a field, writer (poetry? fiction?) He (Javier Bardem) is trying to discover the muse that has deserted him. She (Jennifer Lawrence) is testing colour schemes for the renovation for which the house is crying out.

Man (Ed Harris) knocks on the door. He’s an orthopaedic surgeon with cancer. Can He and She give him a bed? She’s doubtful. He welcomes the diversion of a stranger in their midst. Next day Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives to join her husband. Man and Woman begin to take over the house. Their two sons arrive. Woman asks She why she has no children. She says it’s because He isn’t giving her any. He gives her one. He finds his muse. Celebrity-seekers take over the house. Chaos develops. She delivers a son. The revellers begin to wreck the building, which shows no signs of any renovation. Things get worse.

Running for two hours, the dialogue in ”mother!” frequently goes one way while the images go in another, generating a growing sense of Aronofsky scrabbling around searching for a metaphor that he’s trying to justify. And not succeeding.

Playing She, Jennifer Lawrence deploys scream-queen skills more impressive than the piece deserves. But Aronofsky’s quest for a horror story comes up empty, not horrifying, just horribly unsatisfying.

At all cinemas

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