SPOILER WARNING: If you have not seen Darren Aronofsky’s 2017 film mother! stop reading now. Major plot details are discussed extensively in this article.
Becoming easily the most divisive film of 2017 within just one week of its release, Darren Aronofsky’s mother! has enjoyed little of the support the director’s previous hits (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) have in both reviews and box office turnout. Earning a disappointing $3.1 million during its opening weekend, mother! was easily trumped by its direct genre competition, the remake of Stephen King’s It, which raked in $218 million.
But what mother! lost in financial success, it seems to have made up for in the cultural value that it brings to the table. Indeed, it has quickly exposed a gaping divide between the perspectives of casual movie goers and the film critic elite, with general audiences giving the film an F rating while critics have given it a fairly good score, with a 68% approval rating according to Rotten Tomatoes.
Additionally, mother! has accumulated a vast array of potential allegories that explain the film’s plot. Everything from feminist struggles against the patriarchy, the 2016 Presidential Election, climate change, and religion have been debated by critics and audiences alike.
Yet, there is one perspective that has not yet been analyzed and that is the clear overbearing narrative on immigration, overpopulation, and the European migrant crisis that weaves its way through every pore of the film.
Javier Bardem’s nameless male character, Him, represents Europe’s corrupt politicians; egotistical and righteous in his apparent selflessness and need to be loved by the whole world, he ends up neglecting the basic needs of his home (i.e. the European nations) and wife (i.e. the European people), who is played by Jennifer Lawrence. Him celebrates the arrival of uninvited strangers (i.e. migrants) as “muses” who will brighten up his home and inspire him, though the strangers consistently show themselves to be ungrateful, entitled, and arrogant. Wife is wary and sees the damage that the strangers are causing to their home, but Him is so self-absorbed that he turns a blind eye to the chaos and ignores his Wife’s pleas to remove them.
The movie quite literally reaches a fever pitch of chaos during its climax, with untold numbers of uninvited strangers descending upon the home and destroying absolutely every inch of it. During one of the brief interludes of peace during the chaos, the Wife gives birth to a baby – but even that is taken by Him and exploited until it is literally ripped to shreds and consumed by the strangers. The baby could be an allegory for the resources of a nation.
Any retaliation by Wife during the movie is met with disregard or violence. She attempts to insist to the strangers that the home they are destroying belongs to her, and they laugh in her face. After the murder of her child, she radicalizes and attempts to murder some of the strangers, who overwhelm her with their numbers and try to beat her to death.
mother! shares many characteristics with the movies that go on to be cult classics and change cinematic dynamics forever. This is evident in how it has forced people to take a strong stand on its ambiguous message. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on what the film’s true allegory is, and they all seem eager to defend their point of view.
What mother! lacked in box office revenue, it makes up for in the protests, emotions, and conversations that it has provoked from audiences around the world. Let’s hope that’s what Darren Aronofsky was trying for with his film.
mother! is currently playing at Cineplex Saint John. Showtimes can be found here.