mother! (Aronofsky, 2017)

It’s amazing how much discourse mother! has been able to generate since its release. It’s got its die-hard fans, die-hard haters, Aronofsky apologists, offended parties and indifferent viewers all adding something to the conversation in a way that I’m not sure is comparable to another film released this year. Polarizing may not be strong enough a word to describe it, really. It’s more of an event that will continue to spur reaction for a long time to come, no matter how sick and tired we’ll be of it. Aronofsky has birthed something that will be its own entity, and maybe, in time, it will begin to be widely seen as undeserving of the ‘F’ CinemaScore it received from audiences.

When the film ended, I didn’t know what to think. Like most, I had recognized how unsubtle it was, and felt that Aronofsky had put too many ingredients in his pot, hoping his stew would be incredibly tasty. As we all know, whenever you oversaturate your dish with a multitude of flavours, the taste becomes hard to characterise. It verges on indiscriminate nothingness. And here, with the Biblical allusions and allegories coming left and right, on top of the multiple other readings that could be applied (feminist, ecological, creative, etc.), there is a definite feeling that Aronofsky does too much, leading to very little payoff.

A lot of people end it there and dismiss mother! as a failure due to this lack of restraint. For whatever reason, I couldn’t do that. Though I didn’t love it, I couldn’t help but think back on all the films I’ve seen from this year. While there are some remarkable achievements, far too many of them didn’t take enough risks. mother!, on the other hand, is all about risks. It’s not something you’d expect from a major studio nowadays. It’s odd and slinky, at times excruciating, at times exhilarating. Sometimes it soars; other times, it goes too far and doesn’t justify its excess. Indulgent? Absolutely. Pretentious? Sure, for the most part. But boy does it have moxy. It goes big, doesn’t quite land, yet still managed to entertain me simply because it chooses not to give a shit and goes all in.

I also think it has staying power, which is impressive considering I recently did a marathon of nearly forty films at a major film festival last month. Come next year, I can honestly say some of those films will be mere hazes in my memory. mother! is different. It’s still there, an acidic kaleidoscope whirring and churning at the back of my mind. Who knows how long it’ll be there. I do know that, when I ring in the New Year in January, it will still be one of those films from 2017 that I’ll still remember vividly. Not as one of the very best films of the year, no. But as one of its most audacious and perversely enjoyable outings? Definitely.