For those of you who don’t remember, or have blocked it out, there was a movie released this year called mother! The long-awaited newest film by Darren Aronofsky, the film was unlike anything audiences had seen since Luis Buñuel and David Lynch were in their glory days. In fact, it was so different, that it became the most polarizing film released in years. There was no middle ground: audiences loved it or hated it, citing the strange juxtaposition of subtle filmmaking and decidedly unsubtle storytelling as the reason for their anger. Personally, I thought it was a very strong film unlike anything I’d seen before, but I had no proper gauge for whether I liked it or not. However, the one thing I knew for sure (or so I thought) when I walked out of the theater was that my brother, a connoisseur of the surreal, and a lover of Lynchian philosophy and Harmony Korine nonsense, would love it. So when he came home for winter break, I popped it in for us to watch. The results were not what I was expecting.
Personally, I had a very mixed reaction to my second viewing. The genius and subtlety of the filmmaking felt much more clear and ingenious this time around, now that I understood the sort of Hieronymus Bosch morality play Aronofsky was crafting. However, things also felt so ridiculously on-the-nose, especially once you figured out what the hell was happening, it didn’t feel real, as if the magic was gone and all we were left with was a pretentious assh*le’s final thesis. Nevertheless, I stand by my review, my thoughts, and my appreciation for what he was going for overall. My brother, however, felt a very physical, very visceral rejection of everything this film was about. When I first tried putting it on, he turned it off after fifteen minutes in seething anger, declaring he was too tired to put up with “this bullsh*t,” and we could try again when he was up for it. Realizing the potential for an essay, I decided that this second time around, I would do a running commentary of his thoughts throughout the film, keeping track of his thoughts and emotions at every minute mark. What follows is a transcript of my brother’s emotional well-being throughout mother!’s two hour running time. Understand that this will be very spoiler-centric, as well as incredibly profane.
Minute ten: We are only ten minutes in. Ed Harris has just shown up. My brother is sitting on the couch, arms crossed, eyes glaring. His emotional state can only be described as “overwhelming hatred” at the pacing of this movie
Minute twenty: “This is the dumbest f*cking movie I’ve ever seen,” he states, as Michelle Pfeiffer shows up. He’s upset about the fact that nothing seems to be happening.
Minute twenty-five: “Is this some God thing?” he asks. “They keep saying Paradise. Anyway, it’s getting a bit better; it’s still kinda stupid. And Michelle Pfeiffer is hella overacting.” I confirm his suspicions that the film possesses religious symbolism. I do not tell him that the entire thing is a religious metaphor.
Minute forty-five: At this point, it is clear that we are retelling the Book of Genesis. The older brother has just clubbed the younger brother to death over parental favoritism, in a recreation of Cain and Abel. At this point, my brother says nothing. He just glares at me with a long, sarcastic, knowing look. I don’t think he’s enjoying it. I wonder how he will respond to the next half, where things go off the rails.
Hour mark: The first gathering after the funeral is occurring. Javier Bardem just gave his speech, throughout which my brother groaned angrily and looked at his phone. As the one guy starts painting Jennifer Lawrence’s walls, my brother looks at me, and without any emotion declares, “Travis, this movie f*cking sucks.”
One hour and five minutes: As Jennifer Lawrence once again asks people to get off her sink (“It’s not braced yet!”), and some guy is aggressively flirting with an uninterested Lawrence, my brother makes me stop the movie for the first time. “Ok, you need to stop this movie, because I’m about to have an aneurysm. My heart is racing, it is giving me such anxiety. There is zero redeeming quality about anything in this movie.” He takes a few deep breaths. I tell him the second half will be drastically different. He doesn’t seem to care. Finally, he looks up. “Ok,” he says. “Let’s just get this over with.”
One hour and ten minutes: Javier Bardem is revealing the message of his poems, in the wake of Lawrence’s pregnancy. He looks at me yet again. There is no sarcasm, there is no anger. There is only blackness. “This may be worse than Not Fade Away,” he says emotionlessly. Not Fade Away is, to him, the worst movie he has ever seen, so this is a bold statement.
One hour and twenty-one minutes: “That’s it. I’m f*cking done,” my brother declares as a young boy pees himself in front of Jennifer Lawrence, right on her floor. I convince him to keep watching.
One hour and twenty-two minutes: Things have just started to go off the rails, with people stealing and invading the house, when my brother makes me stop the movie for the second time. “You need to stop this. This movie is honest to God killing me. It’s so bad. I don’t know if I can finish it.” He takes a few more deep breaths before finally conceding. “Let’s just finish this,” he moans dejectedly.”
One hour and thirty minutes: We are finally in the craziness. The house is being torn apart as the military invades, the slave trade forms, and dictatorships are performing mass executions, led by Kristen Wiig. This is one of the most infamous scenes of the year. My brother just keeps fidgeting, anxious and depressed. His face reads of anger, and his eyes bear a bemused expression throughout.
One hour and thirty-one minutes: Jennifer Lawrence is screaming in agony, asking “Why?” over and over again. “Same,” my brother mutters, before falling back dejected once again. I think I’ve seriously traumatized my only sibling.
One hour and forty minutes: Lawrence is, I believe, in labor at this point, but it’s hard to concentrate on the film, as my brother has started spasming uncontrollably. “I HATE THIS MOVIE! I HATE THIS MOVIE!” he starts chanting, as if possessed by an unknown force. I press onward.
One hour and fifty minutes: We have just reached the infamous baby scene. As we watch the newborn infant’s neck snap, my brother stands up and walks out of the room. I pause it to figure out what’s going on, and to make him finish what he started. Before I do so, he returns and grabs the box to the movie. He throws it to the ground. “Proceed,” he states after this encounter ends.
One hour and fifty-one minutes: The film’s metaphors have all tied together. Seeing it all come together, my brother’s jaw drops. “Ok, that’s actually a bit brilliant,” he admits, finally perking up a bit for the first time in almost two hours.
One hour and fifty-five minutes: Jennifer Lawrence is on her rampage. The house’s heartbeat is shown one more time. “Nope, this sucks again,” he states, before slouching one more time.
One hour and fifty-nine minutes: Javier Bardem says his infamous “I am I” line. “OH MY GOD!” my brother yells. I consider saying, “Only symbolically,” but there’s only a minute left and I want him to finish it, so I decide against it.
The Credits: The film has just ended. My brother stands up and walks to the middle of the room as this plays. “You know what the worst part is? Respectable people read this script and said, ‘Yeah, this seems like a good idea.’ It is absolute bullsh*t that this is one of the best-reviewed films of the year. That $30 million in the film’s budget could have gone to literally anything else, but no, it went to that pretentious bullsh*t. I hope you know that I will never read your site anymore, and I will never tell anyone to read it again. Your opinion means nothing to me. You have no taste. That was the worst movie I have ever seen, and you wasted your money on it several times.” He finishes his rant. The room is silent. It suddenly becomes clear to him that the title song to the film about how humanity’s abuse of the Earth will eventually result in the eventual doom of everyone is “The End of the World” by Patti Smith. Oh, f*ck you!” he shouts, and as he storms out of the room, he throws the DVD case across the room and into the wall.
So in case you all were wondering, that’s what it looks like if someone ends up not liking mother! I hope you all enjoyed this peak inside the mind of someone having a viscerally unpleasant reaction to a film. I actually spoke to him today about it, and he wanted me to report that he did think parts of the ending, and especially a scene where Kristen Wiig became a dictator executing people were brilliantly done, as well as admitting that “The film was a success, as I have not been able to get it out of my head.” However, he insists that it is a terrible movie, and that its lack of subtlety in the message mixed with a self-sabotaging seriousness made this one of his worst of the year. I guess the only thing left for you to do is to watch the film for yourself and decide where you fall: a fan, a hater, or somewhere in between. If you saw the movie, let me know in the comments what you thought, and let me know if you think this article should be a recurring series!