2 1/2 (out of 4)
Boasting a well crafted, sickly tuned ambiance that functions far better than the story, mother! succeeds as raw nightmarish energy but less so as a potent film.
Its shocks are minimal, for the film is more divisive in its allegorical touches, symbolism, and pointed abstraction that all go skin deep as far as thematic depth is concerned. mother! only truly works as a visceral calling card to Jennifer Lawrence’s emotive skills, though she’s not perfect here or in general. The young Oscar winner locates the borders of her limits as a thespian and expands on them in this brutally draining role as, for all intents and purposes, mother nature herself.
Your brain will want to evaluate mother! at face value for the first hour, which plays fairly straight, but this soon becomes impossible as logic eventually falls to the wayside. The excessive finale makes way for Darren Aronofsky's adeptness at the essence of the horrendous that have defined his superior films like Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, but his inconsistency in cryptic and obvious biblical references are far removed from actual meaning. For all it’s experimentation and bracing challenges to our conditioned expectations, mother! could never touch the powerful austerity of The Wrestler, the director's best to date.
So far out of left field that it could almost be read as a pitch black comedy, mother! would earn points outside of boldness and stylistic atmosphere if only there was something tangible to care about. The camera constantly sweeps past J Law, gliding around her every move, through toils and snares – but we never care for her or any other character because they're mostly just archetypes, another facet of the allusions Aronofsky never ceases to impose on his audience.
To keep it brief...