[Spoilers ahead for mother!]
Darren Aronofsky’s mother! is bound to be one of the most divisive films of the year. Eschewing traditional narratives and character is just the tip of the iceberg for the aesthetically aggressive movie that isn’t quite the psychological horror it’s billed as and certainly not in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby beyond featuring a stressed out pregnant woman. But because mother! operates along the lines of dream logic and because the film is so steeped in symbolism and tone rather than character and plot, it can be a bit confusing to say the least. The film invites conversation, and the best thing I can say about mother! is that it’s the kind of film that will have you talking with your friends afterwards.
But if you’re still a little confused or just want another take to engage with, here’s mine [seriously, we’re going total spoilers ahead, so stop reading now if you haven’t seen the movie].
mother! is an allegory about God and the Earth. Javier Bardem’s character, whom I’ll refer to as The Poet, is God, and Jennifer Lawrence’s character, whom I’ll refer to as The Mother, is Mother Earth with the house standing in for the environment. From there, the story attempts to be a biblical allegory of both the Old and New Testament as well as a brief, deeply misanthropic view of human history.
Ed Harris’ man represents Adam. When he’s puking in the bathroom, we quickly see an injury right where his rib would be. In the next scene, his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), representing Eve shows up. They’re allowed to wander the house, but are told specifically not to go the poet’s office, but they do so anyway where Eve accidentally breaks the fire crystal. They’re then exiled and soon begin having sex elsewhere in the house, thus representing original sin and man’s fall from grace after eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden.
Then the couple’s sons (Brian and Domhnall Gleeson) come along arguing about their dying father’s will. In their argument, one brother kills the other (Cain and Abel). The parents and the poet carry the dead brother out of the house and the surviving brother runs away. The poet and the parents then return later that night for a wake, and more and more guests come to grieve, but the wake then becomes a chaotic party where, after numerous protestations to not sit on an un-braced sink, the sink becomes unmoored from the wall and water pours into the house. Thus we have humanity’s downfall following the slaying of Abel and eventually the flood.
After the water pours into the house and the guests leave, the mother admonishes the poet, saying that he won’t even have sex with her. They then proceed to have sex, and the following morning, she announces she’s pregnant. He’s then struck with a flash of inspiration and goes downstairs naked to write. When he shows her the finished product, she sees a vision of the world rejuvenated and says that it’s beautiful. However, once again people start flooding into their home and although she’s prepared a nice, quiet meal for her and the poet, the fully pregnant mother is overwhelmed by a throng of people.