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Paramount Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 12/19/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/13/2017
When you tell someone that they've seen a movie, what is their immediate response?. It's usually, "Was it good?" And when we think of the quality of films, we generally break it down into two very, very broad categories, "good" or "bad", which is essentially a way of asking, "Should I watch it or not?" But, there are some movies which transcend the boundaries of "good" or "bad". We've all heard of the films which are "so bad that they are good", which entails movies which are so inept or misguided, that making fun of them creates a worthwhile scenario. But, there are also movies which are so complex and nebulous that simply saying whether or not they are "good" or "bad" won't suffice, especially given the fact that this sort of movie has a distinctly different effect on each viewer. Let's dive into Mother!, which is certainly one of those movies.
Mother! introduces us to a man (Javier Bardem) and a woman (Jennifer Lawrence), who live together in a secluded house. He is a poet who has recently been experiencing writer's block, and she spends her days restoring the house. The dwelling was the man's childhood home and it was gutted by a fire. One night, another man (Ed Harris) shows up on their doorstep looking for a place to stay. Despite the fact that he's a stranger, the poet invites him in, much to the chagrin of the woman. This will only be the first of a series of intruders who come to see the poet and have no issue with being an imposition. As these events pile up, the woman begins to lose control of her life and starts to question her own sanity, and more importantly, her ability to trust the poet.
Writing a synopsis for Mother! is darn challenging, and not just because none of the characters have names. For you see, the story here is not what the movie is about. Writer/Director Darren Aronofsky has created a two-hour long allegory and the true nature of what Mother! is about is not really revealed until the finale. Let's start taking the film apart by stating what it is not. It is not a horror movie (as many were lead to believe), although it does portray some horrific things. It is not a domestic drama, although it does show us a couple who clearly have some issues. It is not science fiction, despite the fact that reality certainly bends in the third act.
No, at its core, Mother! is a movie of religious symbolism told through a modern lens. But, Aronofsky has structured the movie in such a way that it's true meaning is often hidden, and while this isn't a mystery, it will feel like one to the audience, as they attempt to discern what is happening. At the outset, the movie has the tone of a paranoid thriller (I thought that it was going down a Rosemary's Baby path), but as things progress, and more and more odd things occur, we realize that the movie is eschewing the shackles of genre and doing its own thing. To complicate things further, Aronofsky has shot Mother! in such a way that it feels like a nightmare. Most shots involving the woman consist of a very tight close-up on her, while the other characters remain distant. Therefore, we are front and center as her life collapses around her, creating a claustrophobic environment. The movie certainly emits a sense of tension, as we try to comprehend exactly what is happening.
The drawback of the movie is that Aronofsky strings the audience along for too long with his mysterious narrative. About halfway through, it becomes obvious that the point of Mother! is learning the point of Mother!. But, after two hours, most viewers will grow numb, not only because they are waiting for the explanation, but because the film continues to pound the audience with more and more violent and extreme images. The finale goes completely bonkers (and steals ideas from Silent Hill) and I can definitely envision some abandoning the film before the all-important final moments.
With Mother!, Aronofsky has created a challenging movie which should be watched with a crowd. Not because it's a party movie (far from it), but because you will want to discuss it with others to see what their interpretation is. (And to see how adamant people are in their views.) Once you decide on what you thought was happening, you will want to go back and look for clues...except that the intense nature of Mother! really doesn't lend itself to repeat viewings, so Aronofsky may have shot himself in the foot with that. Nevertheless, kudos must be given for the powers that be releasing what is essentially a big-budget experimental art film which just happens to have several Oscar-caliber actors in the lead. Giving it a wide release with a vague marketing push was probably a mistake, but now discerning audiences can discover it on home video.
Mother! could also work as a commercial for home security systems on 4K UHD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 65 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a trace amount of grain and no defects from the source materials. However, this is a dark film and the transfer has a great deal of difficulty maintaining a balance between light and dark moments. The image bordered on flickering as it would morph from lighter to darker shades. I've seen this in other 4K releases and it can be distracting. When this effects wasn't occurring, the picture delivered a nice amount of detail and notable depth. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Whereas the video has issues, the audio is stellar. Someone really took some time working with the placement of the surround sound and we get some of the most detailed sound that I've encountered in recent memory. From the outset, when the woman turns and walks away from something, the rear channels are filled with the activity going on behind her. During the chaotic finale, we are treated to deep subwoofer effects, and well-balanced front and rear channels effects, placing us within the maelstrom.
The extra features for Mother! are found on the accompanying Blu-ray Disc. "Mother!: The Downward Spiral" (30 minutes) is a detailed making-of featurette which features comments from Aronofsky, other members of the creative team, and the cast. The piece then takes us step-by-step through the production process, starting with the construction of the house set, and the moving into the filming (using real film!). It then moves into exploring key scenes, mostly from the finale. "The Makeup FX of Mother!" (7 minutes) takes us into Adrien Morot's workshop to see how some key moments in the film were created -- using latex and not CG.
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long