In Depth

Mother! Jennifer Lawrence horror film shocks Venice

Critics stunned and disturbed by Darren Aronofsky’s ‘insane’ new movie

The latest psychological horror film from Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky has left reviewers at the Venice Film Festival scrabbling for words.

Mother!, which is competing for the festival's Golden Lion prize, stars Aronofsky’s girlfriend Jennifer Lawrence as the wife of a creatively blocked poet, played by Spanish actor Javier Bardem. The recently wed couple are trying to create an idyllic home in an isolated mansion when they are visited by creepy guests (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer).

The film, says Rachel Withers in Slate, has left critics in “equal parts impressed and disturbed”. It has been compared to Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, along with other movies including Straw Dogs, Antichrist, and Gaslight, and even to the hellscapes of medieval artist Hieronymus Bosch.

If that sounds muddled, says Withers, “you’ll probably be even more confused after you see it”.

In The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw says Aronofsky’s “toweringly outrageous film leaves no gob unsmacked”, calling it “an event-movie detonation, a phantasmagorical horror and black-comic nightmare”.

As the film escalates, says Bradshaw, viewers move swiftly from asking “WTF to WTAF to SWTAF and beyond”. But the critic praises Lawrence and Bardem as “tremendously operatic” leads, along with Pfeiffer in “a pleasingly cruel supporting role”.

Robbie Collin, in The Daily Telegraph, calls Mother! “a shocking, surrealist, symphonically berserk feast of filth”. It will “turn some dizzy with delirium while others retch”, he says, noting that the Venice audience was divided between cheers and boos.

In the Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy calls Mother! a “Rosemary’s Baby for these times”. Aronofsky, McCarthy claims, "wants to have his commercial cake and chomp down on some vexing personal issues, too".

Readings of the film, which ends in a “demented” final stretch, will vary, admits the critic. But while some will interpret it as a story about an ego-driven artist, he says, most viewers will respond to “the ghoulish twists and kicks” aplenty.

Owen Gleiberman, in Variety, calls Mother! a “head-trip of a movie” that is “dazzlingly skilful” at “getting a rise out of you”, but wonders if it offers anything more than this.

Nevertheless, Gleiberman admits, Aronofsky is “a dark wizard of the cinematic arts” compared with the many hacks turning out “cruddy recycled horror movies” that still score at the box office. Mother! is destined to be a success, Gleiberman concludes - and maybe even a “sensation”.

Recommended

Anne Heche ‘not expected to survive’ after LA car crash
Anne Heche
Speed Reads

Anne Heche ‘not expected to survive’ after LA car crash

29 of the best movies so far this year
Amber Midthunder in Prey
In Focus

29 of the best movies so far this year

Olivia Newton-John: a life in pictures
Newton-John with her fiance, guitarist Bruce Welch
In pictures

Olivia Newton-John: a life in pictures

‘Kapow!’: why $90m Batgirl movie was axed
Leslie Grace as Batgirl
Talking point

‘Kapow!’: why $90m Batgirl movie was axed

Popular articles

Why The Satanic Verses is still controversial
Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses
Getting to grips with . . .

Why The Satanic Verses is still controversial

Is World War Three on the cards?
Ukrainian soldiers patrol on the frontline in Zolote, Ukraine
In Depth

Is World War Three on the cards?

Will China invade Taiwan?
Chinese troops on mobile rocket launchers during a parade in Beijing
Fact file

Will China invade Taiwan?

The Week Footer Banner