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mother! 2017 *****

mother! is a truly terrible title, sounding like some kind of out-of-town revue skit. Director Darren Aronofky’s choice of title may deliberately put off the unwary, but that’s just as well, because his film is pointedly aimed at alienating the audience. In what feels like an eternal nightmare, Jennifer Lawrence plays a woman who moves to the country with her artist husband (Javier Bardem). Their idyllic existence is shattered by the arrival of various strangers, notably Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris, the latter suffering for a sinister and unexplained illness. Like everyone else in the film, they are fans of the artist, but failure to observe social niceties leads to Lawrence placing the means of Harris lighting a cigarette out of reach. This act is somehow the cue for all kinds of random people trooping through their front door to share in their celebrity, in a way that is oddly theatrical, and before long Kristen Wiig is leading firing squads in their kitchen. Mother! is the kind of allegory with pretentions that usually falls flat, but that law of averages somehow works against the odds here; a furious vomit of incendiary ideas about modern life, this is a dark, testing and rewarding film that aims to take no prisoners and make no friends.

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