Darren Aronofky is generally a celebrated filmmaker. Since his 1998 debut feature, the indie thriller Pi, almost all of his films have been Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. In fact, only one of his six movies is not — The Fountain has a 51% Tomatometer score — and even that has some very serious defenders. Still, thanks to that one outlier, the Oscar-nominated director’s Tomatometer average is 79.5%.
His latest, mother!, is currently at 100% based on the first wave of reviews out of the Venice Film Festival, and if it remains high, it could bump up Aronofsky’s average. But early buzz on the movie, which stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a couple who receive sudden uninvited guests at their remote country home, indicates that it very well could be polarizing for critics and audiences when it opens in theaters next week. Could it be the most divisive major release of the year?
Here’s what critics are saying about mother! in reviews and on social media:
Great in a way that you know will divide audiences and send them barreling towards opposite ends of the opinion spectrum – it’s not a work that invites middling responses.
– Travis Johnson, FilmInk
Darren Aronofsky wants to have his commercial cake and chomp down on some vexing personal issues, too… readings of the film will vary; some critics will try to decipher its writer-director’s attitude, while the public will mostly respond to the ghoulish twists and kicks, of which there are plenty.
– Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
Like much the rest of Aronofsky’s work, it will divide and stimulate audiences and critics, but should still be hailed as an original, strikingly unconventional piece.
– Fionnuala Halligan, Screen International
Darren Aronofsky’s allusive film opens itself to a number of allegorical readings, but it also works as a straight-ahead head rush.
– Ben Croll, IndieWire
Filmed with loving oppressiveness, only using three basic, handheld camera shots: seeing what Jennifer Law sees, looking over her shoulder or into her face, for the whole film. Arty! And scary.
– David Sexton, London Evening Standard
The exclamation mark fits, but nothing about this is lowercase. Forget the expert spookhouse nerve: hell is truly other people.
– Guy Lodge, Variety
Toss in a twist ending worthy of M. Night Shamyalan (a good or bad thing? Maybe both), and you’ve got a head-trip horror movie with something for everyone — except, perhaps, for those who want to emerge feeling more haunted than assaulted.
– Owen Gleiberman, Variety
Will turn some dizzy with delirium while others retch on its fumes… But for me, the former is the only possible response. This is a mad, transfixing, rolling thunder-crash of a film – What To Expect When You’re Expecting by way of Goya’s Disasters of War – that holds its considerable nerve until the final cut to black.
– Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph
There seemed to be a competition from the audience for applause against boos and vice versa… I was surrounded by shrieks, yawns, laughter, smiles and a man who yelled “f— you!” at the screen as soon as the credits started. You’ll either get something you want from mother! or you’ll feel like you were robbed. You’ll leave the theater spit out into the world with a spinning head and an itch to assemble the puzzle.
– Brian Formo, Collider
The easily offended, those prone to tachycardia and of course pregnant or breastfeeding women may want to avoid it, but as the inevitable boos that rang out long and lustily in its Venice press screening confirm, Mother! is something truly magnificent, the kind of visceral trash-arthouse experience that comes along very rarely, means as much or as little as you decide it does, and spits you out into the daylight dazzled, queasy, delirious, and knock-kneed as a newborn calf.
– Jessica Kiang, The Playlist
The message is clear: this is a film designed to f— with you. And f— with you it does… it is a sickeningly glorious mess… the most WTF movie of the year.
– Marlow Stern, The Daily Beast
See which side you fall on when mother! opens in theaters on September 15.