If there is a filmmaker that can get people talking and get people reacting to his work, it's Darren Aronofsky. And he's back behind the camera for mother!, which is perhaps his most controversial and divisive film to date.

Firstly, it's worth noting that this film is not for everyone. When it premiered at Venice Film Festival a few weeks ago, mother! was met with everything from applause and boos to even some tears - so it really is as mixed a bag as they come. And, having seen this myself now too, it's easy to understand just why this film is so divisive; simply put, it's an esoteric mind-fuck - several people walked out of the screening I saw this at, some laughed once the credits began rolling, and others sat stunned by what they just saw. Aronofsky is perhaps best known for making films that that get people talking, and this is no exception. In fact, this may be his best film yet. It is a flat-out masterpiece. Once again, Darren Aronofsky has created something so original, so vicious and so beautifully haunting; this is the kind of in-your-face film that will leave you feeling violated and confused, but all in the most exciting of ways.

The bare-bones premise of the film is fairly straightforward. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a married couple, simply listed as "mother" and "him", respectively, in the credits and on IMDb; the latter is a poet suffering writer's block, meanwhile the former nurtures their new house, proud of her work and redecoration in fixing it into a home. However, when an uninvited married couple (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfieffer) arrive at their door seeking refuge, our lead pair find their tranquil existence, as well as their relationship, put to the test. In essence, that is mother! in a nutshell. However, that only begins to scratch the surface as there is so much more to this than meets the eye; the story itself is allegorical and metaphorical, with so much fascinating meaning and nuance seeping through every single frame. Mother! is a feverish nightmare that will twist and turn you until you can take no more - and that's just putting it lightly. Aronofsky wrote the script within 5 days after a "fever dream" and the result certainly echoes this: it's madness. But it's madness orchestrated with such compelling edge that it's bloody brilliant.

Mother! wears its influences on its sleeve, with tinges of Rosemary's Baby felt throughout, as well as little aspects of all of Aronofsky's prior work thrown in too - the biblical undertones of Noah; the dizzying narcosis of Requiem; the psychological sensibilities of Black Swan; like a proud little sibling, mother! learns from its counterparts. However, despite this, this film is wholly original; it's different from the best of its counterparts - superior, yes, but deftly so - and it is unlike anything I've ever seen before. The brilliance of the work here is undeniable. Of course, just the fact that there is so much to unpack within the story - so rich with depth - and the fact it offers itself up to countless interpretations and so much analysis alone is so refreshing to see but, furthermore, mother! just ticks all the right boxes as a film too. Sure, it's by no means the paint-by-numbers "home invasion" horror the trailers teaser or that many expected but, as a horror, it's far more terrifying; this is horror done right - the kind of psychological undertones that will crawl under your skin and burn itself into your brain with its harrowing imagery and concepts and freak you out for days to come. Its jet-black humour is terribly funny and witty too and, stylistically, the film is dark and gritty and gorgeously so.
As a vehicle for analysis, the film offers up a plethora of astounding work - from remarkable performances to stunning cinematography and camera-work to mesmerising direction and such a sharp, intelligent and nuanced script. But, most of all, it boasts such audacity and provocative ambition for a mainstream blockbuster that is so rare nowadays; it has shaken mainstream cinema to its core. Of course, the performances are astonishing too. The likes of Michelle PfiefferEd Harris, Domhnall Gleeson and even Kristen Wiig make up a strong ensemble of supporting talent that all impress but this is Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence's film - more so the latter, even. The pair are brilliant together; Bardem brings his usual haunting charm and commanding presence here but it is Lawrence that steals the show. She represents the viewer in this nightmarish world and as the film throws her through the wringer, we're thrown through it alongside her. The young actress gives an emotionally charged, soul-baring performance and it's genuinely some astounding work that definitely deserves to turn heads come Awards season. It's so refreshing to see such big-name stars in something so absurd and out-there for its controversial and biblical thematics.

The direction is god-like here and Aronofsky really demands your attention; this is a film that has some shockingly disturbing imagery within it, often very gory and vicious, but as uncomfortable and anarchic as the proceedings can become - the final act is utterly insane and fucked up and absurd, in the best way possible - it's difficult to look away because of how thoroughly engrossing it is. Yes, the film becomes outrageous. Yes, the allegories hit hard in the final act. Yes, it's all chaotic and nightmarish and sprawling. But that's the point. This isn't the case of a bad script convoluting the narrative but, rather, the narrative requiring everything to spiral out of control. And it's genius and so riveting to watch. The film has been slammed as "pretentious" and "messy" but it's bold and challenging.

This is an exercise in claustrophobic and anarchic cinema that will throw you into the wringer as it does with its characters and beat you until you feel violated and exasperated; the viewing experience of mother! is relentless and vicious and challenging at times but it's intensely gripping and beautiful. The aftermath is even more so. This a film that requires deep mulling over; the kind of film that will shake you up and firmly cement itself in your mind for time to come. This is not a film for everyone - it's already being hotly argued and has angered many people - but it's a film that is undoubtedly potent and powerful. It's a film that everyone thinks the understand yet everyone interprets differently and when a film can stir up that reaction, it's quite remarkable. Factor in just how superb a film it actually is, rather than the themes and ideologies permeating it, and it's magnificent. In my opinion, though, mother! is a seething cauldron of brilliance that is haunting, challenging, original, ingenious and a masterclass. It earns its exclamation as it firmly nails itself as a modern masterpiece and a film that will be remembered and talked about for years to come - and deservedly so.

Darren Aronofksy's filmmaking is god-like here, and mother! is a masterpiece. It is a challenging, uncomfortable watch yet one that is viciously engrossing and jaw-dropping.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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