Writing a film review is never easy, but after honing your skills, one begins to pick up tricks of the trade - knowing how to balance your thoughts on the film whilst detailing enough of the plot without spoiling it is the aim of the game. Occasionally though, there's a spanner in the works, where articulating your thoughts is difficult due to the fact you don't really know what you've just seen and what any of it means. Darren Aronofsky's latest film, Mother!, falls into that bracket - a piece of work so bold and confounding it's quite hard to explain.
Jennifer Lawrence plays the titular character, a downtrodden woman who lives with her husband (Javier Bardem) in the middle of nowhere, renovating their property singlehandedly whilst he suffers from writer's block. When a doctor (Ed Harris) mistakes their home for a B&B, the husband’s welcoming demeanour causes a conflict with his wife, with her scepticism increasing when the doctor's wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives without warning.
The first two acts play like a hybrid of a psychological horror, jet-black comedy and a home invasion thriller - Mother doesn't know whether to be warier of the beating heart lurking in the walls of the house, or the seemingly endless crop of people disrupting her longing for a peaceful existence. The allegorical nature of the plot will lead to comparisons with Aronofsky’s previous film Noah, but there's more of a resemblance to 2010's Black Swan. Pfeiffer torments Lawrence in a way akin to how Mila Kunis had a hold on Natalie Portman - the deviant soul overpowering the timid one.
Both revolve around paranoia, but with Mother!, the danger is more tangible and surreal, with Lawrence’s character repeatedly being disregarded by her husband at the expense of his work. Lawrence conveys the desperation exquisitely, with each ignored request having a gradual effect on her psyche, cranking up the decibels each time she says "get out of my house". It's a testament to the impeccable sound design - the first two acts are minimalist, with the silence only being broken by awkward conversations and the dropping of objects, but this is a far-cry from the surreal last act, where screams and shouts form a cacophony of uncomfortable noise.
Such is Aronofsky's skill, a palpable tension permeates the film, with the camera predominantly being at shoulder height, seldom straying from Lawrence's face. Creating a claustrophobic effect, it means we're unable to engage what surrounds her, proving that it doesn't necessarily take jump scares to create an unnerving atmosphere. The sheer suggestion of danger can often be more intimidating than the literal manifestation of it, and this is where mother! excels, toying its audience to the point of bewilderment and frustration.
This intention to shock will cause polarisation, but it's refreshing to see such a singular and unique approach to filmmaking in mainstream cinema - the horror genre often sees a regurgitation of tropes, so any sense of originality is a welcome change. There's no denying that Mother! is a difficult watch, but that should be a prerequisite for any horror film.