Well I have a doozy for you all today! Here’s my SPOILER filled synopsis, review, and analysis of Mother!.
First, I was the only person in this film until about the opening credits when a couple came in. I had never been in the stadium theater alone before. It was very nice but also set the mood and tone for this film perfectly. I did not know what to expect going in. I saw the trailers and it looked like a classic horror or thriller film. I had no intention of seeing Mother! because I have sworn off movies that will produce fear in me, which horror/thrillers tend to do. Early this morning, before I arose for my workout I came across Chris Stuckman’s Youtube review of the film. As he explained that this movie was less horror more theory/abstract/metaphor I became intrigued. I felt even more compelled to go once I heard that Darren Aronofsky directed this piece. You might remember him from Requiem of a Dream or The Fountain. So I decided to take myself to see the film.
I was not prepared for what I experienced. I still thought that this was going to be a horror or thriller movie because the atmosphere of the film had that vibe from the very first scene. The film opens with a woman who is obviously very badly burned with the world burning around her and a look of intense grief. That first visual is so stunning it immediately pulls you into the story. I thought, oh we are going to try to find out what happened to the first wife and how the house caught on fire. Which, honestly we do but not in the way you would think. We then meet our two main characters Mother played by Jennifer Lawrence and Him played by Javier Bardem. I had my reservations about Lawrence’s performance because I do not find that she is cast in the best roles to suit her style AND that often they continue to force her into roles/characters when she is clearly not interested in playing the part (see Hunger Games/X-Men). She was absolutely superb in her role as Mother though. She brought an innocence, growth, and emotion to this part that I feel probably came from real world experience.
On to the movie! From the beginning we see that there is a deep love between Mother and Him but that there is friction and tension because Him is a poet, a creator, who is unable to create. Him has writers block. Mother on the other hand is thriving- building, decorating, and caring for their home and Him. You can see Mother’s frustration at not being able to assist Him with gaining inspiration for his next poem. As she continues to work on the home and providing a space where Him can create we are thrown out of this “paradise” Mother is trying to create into a world of pain and confusion. There are several times when Mother touches the house, such as during a scene in the beginning where she is mixing pigments to create the perfect color for her walls, that she places her hand on the house and is able to connect with heart of the home. The heart of the home and Mother have a connection through which she feels it’s pain and feels hers. They act in response to each other. The Home is an extension of Mother.When these episodes occur, Mother moves to the bathroom where she has some yellow powder in a bottle that she mixes with water. This powder seems to have the ability to calm her down. Now I am not sure what the yellow powder was.
Their paradise is interrupted as Ed Harris’s character Man arrives followed soon by his wife played by Michelle Pfeiffer as Woman and their two sons who are engaged in an intense conflict. Aronofsky verified that these characters can be interpreted as Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel respectively. Harris and Pfeiffer’s characters bring to us the introduction of the human element into the world of the Gods. Ed Harris is clearly unwell and has no regard for Mother’s requests not to smoke in the home. Michelle Pfeiffer is invasive, inquisitive, and a bit unruly. She asks about Mother and Him’s sex life, their desire for and lack of children. She is intrusive and even says, “I can be too forward sometimes”. Pfeiffer’s character can be clearly juxtaposed against Mother’s character as confident, outspoken, forward, sexual, wise, and jaded. Mother on the other hand when she first interacts with Pfeiffer’s character is sheltered, protective, unsure, conservative, and passive aggressive. What we really get to see from the introduction of these other characters is Mother’s inability to be heard.
I immediately resonated with this display of silencing as I have been working on my throat chakra because I tend to feel like people do not listen to me and this is sometimes reinforced by their not doing as I asked. Mother experiences this at an even greater capacity. First, Him does not ask whether she would feel comfortable having the Man or the other’s that follow him into their home. Mother repeatedly asks throughout the movie, “who are these people? Why are they here?”. The premise that these people are strangers who feel as if they desire access to Mother’s home speaks to our idea that the Earth is here for us to ravish and provide for us. Although Him acknowledges that this is THEIR home, He feels comfortable making decisions without Mother’s input. Ed Harris’s character Man, at first listens to her request to not smoke in the home but then later she finds that he has been smoking in his room. The Woman just pretty much does what she wants. Barging in on Him’s office even when Mother explains and pleads for her not to do so. Although, these people are in Mother’s home they do not listen to her requests. She has provided them with shelter, food, drink, and safety yet the Man and Woman are more concerned with being with Him then honoring Mother’s preferences. This goes so far as to destroy something very important to Him in their attempt to be near him.
Let me tell you, I commiserated with Mother through out this entire ordeal. Every time she would ask for something, make a request, set a boundary it was like she had never spoken. Sometimes they would even respond with “what?”, as if they had not heard her. I’m sure we have all experienced that moment when we express something only to have that person come back to us later and ask us for the same information again. Or to just ignore what we said altogether. Yet, Mother continued to clean up and care for everyone within the home. I found myself saying over and over again, girl let them clean that up themselves. Let them make their own food and drinks. But Mother kept mothering and I was reminded of the social pressure to present ourselves as open and welcoming particularly for the feminine energy. Being a good host is equated with being a good person. If you are not then you are rude, a bitch, or have a “bad attitude,”. The focus should be on making the other person feel comfortable despite how you are feeling. The sacrifice of the self is deemed acceptable to please others.
Things continue to fall apart the more people come to their home. There is a fight between the brothers where everyone ends up leaving the home except for Mother because Him tells her to stay there. She pleads crying don’t leave me. This part broke my heart because this was clearly a traumatic moment and yet over and over again we see Him as more concerned with the welfare of their visitors then his wife Mother. He expects that she will be fine and that because she is home, he will be fine. It is the Man and Woman who “have no where else to go”. Eventually at the end of the movie Mother confronts Him about his abandoning her but it is too late for amends by then. The reality of seeing the emotional cost of trying to make everything perfect and be this supreme nurturer who gives and gives to everyone else but is left to fend for herself when she is in need of support was gut wrenching. It brought back memories of my own experiences of being in unequally yoked relationships. Where I was the giver and hardly ever the receiver. At one point even one of the son’s comments on the fact that they left her at the house in this very dangerous emotional moment. He leaves tossing back “good luck” before never being seen again.
This theme of silencing and not being heard repeats throughout the film. As more and more people enter the home the less Mother is heard, respected, and acknowledged. She eventually has a break after they flood her home (what connection to a biblical story does this symbolize hmm?). Now, Mother tried to warn the people that if they kept up their behavior they would break her home. Their response to this was “what’s her problem? She doesn’t know what she’s talking about”. Then when she was right it was like oh, oh well. Mother then confronts Him commenting on how it is always about him and never about her. How what she needs are never prioritized if they are even acknowledged. She then comments on his inability to have sex with her. (The Woman has recognized his inability to perform as their issue earlier in the film). Ding ding ding ding. Alarm bells go off for me as the tension of calling into question male or masculine virility, libido, and sexuality immediately makes me fearful of his reaction. It is one thing to comment on his not listening to her and need to control the situation in their home. It is another to talk about his sexual performance or lack thereof as this can be a very sensitive topic. Male/Masculine violence is a threat that although I have not experienced first hand, the effects have imprinted themselves upon my psyche as someone who works in the health care field. I knew that this could go several ways but more than likely would end in some form of re-connection.
They end up reconnecting once all the people have been forced from her space. This connection is physical, sexual, and passionate. The coming together of the feminine and masculine is powerful. The energy of the home shifts as Mother’s does. She brightens and the scene shifts to morning, brightening their home as well. It also ignites the energy of creation. Him began to feel alive when the Man, Woman, their family, and friends needed him but it was not until he united fully with Mother that he actually was able to create. Wow, what does this suggest about the idea of finding our purpose outside of ourselves? Him thought that he had to bring life into the home from the people around him. When he connected with his feminine element within the home, life was there waiting for him the entire time. Likewise, Mother wanted nothing more than to just be alone with Him. It took Mother speaking her truth/finding her voice by calling Him out to bring her back into her power.
This imagery brings to the conversation the need for balance. What we seek cannot be found outside of ourselves but if we are not brave enough to let our desires be known then they go unfulfilled. Also, we meet the Shadow of Mother in her passive aggressive acquiescence to Him’s requests even when she is not in agreement. To settling their issues with sex without exploring Him’s lack of communicating. We also begin to see fully that although it is not healthy or fulfilling for Him to seek continuously outside of himself, it is also not healthy for Mother to be so focused ONLY on Him and their home. We will discuss more on this later.
Highlighting again some assumptions we have of the magic of Mother, the feminine, and women, Mother miraculously knows that she with child without any validation from outside sources. She is becoming more like the wise Eve who intuitively was able to read the issues between Mother and Him. Although it might be said that tapping into her sexuality allowed Mother to become more open to her intuition, I argue that it was speaking and living her truth. Mother wanted to be connected with Him alone in their home that she made for Him. Whenever these desires were not honored she was out of alignment with herself. She was disconnect from her heart. Her heart and her home began to die. When we are not in alignment it becomes harder to hear our guiding inner wisdom. By expressing herself, Mother tapped into a deeper part of herself and her partner Him. This opened and activated her throat chakra and activated his root and sacral chakra stirring up the energy of creation. He then stimulated the same activation in Mother. They worked together to move and release the Kundalini energy of spirit and creation.
Mother knew she was pregnant and Him after a moment believed her. The spark was ignited. The wheels of creation put into motion. He began to write. All has returned to right in their world as Mother has again reinforced their foundation and Him has returned to creating. There is a beautiful moment shared that becomes marred as the same issues of desires, fulfillment, and connection rear their head. Him is driven by attention and the praise he receives from his creation. Breaking Banter’s Youtube channel compared him to an artist who thrives off the attention they receive for their work. We find that Him contacted his publisher before sharing his art with Mother. What was a beautiful moment between the two of them actually was between Him and many others. This really highlights the different ways that these two get their needs satisfied. Mother could be associated with an introvert who does not need a lot of interaction. She finds having to spend time and hold space with a lot of people to be draining. Him though THRIVES from spending time with others. He becomes energized and excited to create the more time he spends with people. You could also look at their love languages. Clearly, Mother’s love language is quality time, while Him enjoys acts of service which make his life function well so he can give/receive from the public.
Now this is the point in the film where everything starts to fall apart, literally. A very slow start for the first two acts noticeably speeds up after the poem/book is published. We see the final moment where Mother’s home is HER home. Where she has created and designed everything within this space. It is all hers that she freely shares with Him. Quickly, fans, people, his publisher, his followers steal this home and her creations away. What starts as people just wanting to be around Him turns to worship of his image, his words, his beliefs, his things. People pour into this home and we see that this is not a “house”, it is their world. Different rooms become different movements, eras, and situations. The lower levels holds more violence and aggression, the middle level/stairs are the spaces for reverence and worship, and the top level or Him’s office becomes the space of of the Gods. We could liken this to our subconscious, conscious, and superconscious or the Id, ego and superego.
As this last act of the film completes the new testament there’s a lot that happens during that time. We see the disconnect that exists between the people and Mother. No one listens to her. No one cares about what she has created. No one stops to see if she is healthy (physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally) or how her child is doing. They push her out the way, they take her things, they talk over her. She only becomes relevant when she is with Him. Even with his Publisher, who I am interested in figuring out who she represents, Mother only matters because she makes Him look good. Once the Publisher feels Mother has served her purpose, the Publisher’s character makes an extreme change in her actions. The Publisher also made me realize that there is not a female character that really connects with Mother. There is though a male character, one of the swat team members or soldiers, late in the movie who attempts to move Mother to safety. That was really the only person who seemed to “see” Mother. How is it that the person who has designed this world can go completely unseen? It seems that the lack of respect and acknowledgement of Mother from the beginning eventually created a world where she meant nothing. She was the same as everyone else. Except to Him.
As Mother gets closer to giving birth, the more the house reacts to her state. Mother attempts to leave the home but is diverted by Him. He refuses to take her from the house. Instead he moves her upwards towards the higher conscious space/his space. Him moves her to a place where she can give birth safely. Mother pleads with Him again to let it just be the two of them in their world bringing this being to life. This is the moment that Him speaks his truth. He states that he likes having these people here. He does not want them to leave. Finally, the truth is on the table. Mother is FINALLY beginning to see Him for who he is. We know now that neither Mother or Him saw each other for who and what they were. They each were trying to meet their own needs which kept them from being able to fully understand what the other being desired. Mother may have been more giving but she was TOO giving. Him liked to receive but he was took TOO much. Not that Him was not giving as much of what Mother gave Him, he gave away. Both masculine and feminine were out of balance.
The child is born and Mother moves into mama bear mode. There is a line where Michelle Pfeiffer says something to the effects of that when they have a child they will have created something together. Mother created the home, Him created his works but they needed something to bind them together outside of their selfish devotion to each other to meet their unbalanced desires. Now that Mother has a child, Mother is not taking any crap from Him. She claims this child and as such seems to no longer need all of the attention from Him. She has something outside of herself that is a part of them both to protect. Eventually though the world always gets in, or in this case, given a sacrifice. I will not spoil this moment yet, but there is a powerful scene about our creations, consumption, and ownership.
Mother, in attempting to finally be vocal and physical is protecting what is hers, is punished severely. Him moves to protect her but it is too little too late. Then he asks that Mother forgive them. I know that as I sat there I had the same look of disbelief on my face as Lawrence did. Forgive these people for the horrible things they have done?? It seemed unthinkable. I believe in forgiveness though in order to prevent the very thing that happens next. When the world and its’ people have betrayed you to the point where you are unable to forgive them, destruction will follow. Mother looks around her and the pain, devastation, and destruction that has occurred in her home. She sees Him who always chooses her too late to count. Mother moves from the bringer of life/light to the sword of truth, to the scales of judgement, finally taking her form as the bringer of death/darkness. As they say let that shit burn.
As a Priestess of the Underworld and the Goddesses of Life/Death, watching this cycle on the screen was profound. Seeing the attempt to bring life both from Mother and Him, then watching it’s colossal failure was painful. I felt their pain as they each tried to create something beautiful and everlasting. Mother gives the very last of her including the final spark of light which will birth a new world. The cycle begins again. Mother has changed yet Him remains the same. This indicates that Him has experienced this cycle before as this is the start of the film and the end. How many times has Him watched the world grow and die around him? And is it that being this creator who cares more for his creations than his love is his nature that he cannot divest from just as much as it is Mother’s nature to give all of herself to him? There was more sacrificed in this film than just Mother, her home, her child, her world. The chance for Him to evolve was sacrificed, the chance for Mother to leave this world and see what lies beyond the walls that she has built, the chance to see what they son may have created, so much was given to begin again.
What cycles of sacrifice do you find yourself in? Where do you need to stop and see the world and the people in it for who they really are? Perhaps they can change. If they do, it will be of their own accord. We cannot love someone into doing or being what we desire. We cannot limit someone to make them stay where we feel safe and cared for. Mother! is a film that calls into question our truth and how we express it. The complexity of the masculine and the feminine both within ourselves energetically and displayed externally.
I have been working with the energy of sacrifice for the past year. Trying to figure out what does it mean? What is it’s purpose. I tried to reframe sacrifice into making something sacred but it just could not wash away the dread I felt that radiated energetically from the word. Mother! placed on screen my deepest fear and understanding of sacrifice. No matter how you paint it, to sacrifice anything is painful and powerful. It will make your realize the importance of that which you value while also highlighting its impermanence. We will continue to give our all and it will be taken until someone makes a choice to do differently. Walk out the door, crawl through the wall, climb out the window. What you seek from another can be found within. But you must break the cycle.
Whooo well that was a lot so I’m signing off. To sovereignty, autonomy, self-care, community, and love.