This story contains spoilers throughout for the plot of mother!
Since it was announced, the prime selling point of Darren Aronofsky’s new film, mother!, has been twofold: that it stars one of the most famous actors working today, Jennifer Lawrence, and that the particulars of its plot are an utter mystery. Well, after months of secrecy, the movie hit theaters in wide release last weekend, and audiences are finally getting the chance to puzzle over this bizarre, chaotic work of horror.
Aronofsky’s tale is blunt, fantastical, and obviously laden with symbolism, but for me, the biggest delight about mother! is how many people have shared with me their different takes on the film’s message. My colleague Christopher Orr discussed the movie’s openness to multiple interpretations in his review, noting both the story’s biblical allusions and its apparent self-referential tone about the difficulty of life as an artist, and how monstrous creators can become. Now that mother! is out, it’s worth digging deeper into the great debate that’s already emerged over the film’s meaning.
The plot of mother! is very simple—at least until it starts getting more unhinged. It begins with a shot of a woman’s crying face in the middle of a vast inferno, after which a man (Javier Bardem) inserts a crystal into a pedestal and magically repairs the burnt home around him. Cut to: an unnamed woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who lives in this gorgeous house in the middle of nowhere with her husband (Bardem). He’s a poet of some renown, busy toiling on his next great work (although he appears to be suffering from writer’s block). She’s devotedly renovating their home, painting the walls and such, and seems to have a mystical power to “feel” the heart of the house, by touching the walls and visualizing a giant, pumping organ.