This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Andrew Wade’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Dear darren aronofsky!,
Hello, and I hope you're doing well. My name is Andrew, and I'm 27 years old. In those years, I've been told to fuck off in quite a variety of ways. By current and former friends, lovers, family, strangers; both in jest and seriousness. I've been told to fuck off, to go fuck myself, to get the fuck out, get fucked, fucking die...the creative use of the word is a list for another day. But in my storied history, I don't think I've ever been told to fuck off as vehemently venomously as 'mother!' does.
As the film started, I was kind of perturbed. Javier Bardem's dismissive Him and Ed Harris' dissolute Man's behaviour are a 'My First Playset's patriarchal criticism towards Jennifer Lawrence's Mother. Likewise, Mother's intrusive mental state being so easily washed away is just another paper-thin wrapping around Mother's rather egotistical self-insert on your behalf.
I actively avoided as much press and other's opinions on your film as I could until I was able to see it. I'd seen a few vague passing statements on the biblical metaphors present. I'll be honest, I didn't really get any of that. What I did get, was an artist self-representing and wallowing in self-pity over becoming too popular. Him, preying on the creativity and alternating between hate and praise before foisting the the final product to an adoring audience. Man and Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) portraying the often misdirected dichotomy of adulation and abhorrence of critics. The crowd as the audience, consumers of art, whether they be the cult that worships at your alter or the wider mainstream; disrespecting, misinterpreting, twisting the word of god, of Mother, of Aronofsky, eventually destroying the very thing they say they love.
Now, I'm not a smart man. Nor am I an artist. I do voraciously consume film, though. Ever since I started to, just under two decades ago, you were at the forefront. I saw 'Requiem for a Dream' on DVD when I was way, way too young. My teenage mind was entirely unprepared for 'The Fountain' on opening weekend. 'The Wrestler' and 'Black Swan' just completely fucked me up for days after seeing them. Although I got to 'Pi' last, but have returned to it the most. While I despise the current-day implications that the word "fan" entails, I wouldn't hesitate to call myself a fan of yours. Through your creations, I've opened a world of film to myself - whether through direct influences or through conversations with other enthusiasts about your work. So 'mother!' becomes a real slap in the face when you have your self-insert elevated above the teeming masses, sequestering it away from perceived or real threats, with all the implications of high-vs-low art shown as even beneath yourself. There's no other position for me to occupy than as a consumer, and you're outright telling me to fuck off.
I would ask "why?", but I think you know. I think I know. You might have noticed the lack of a 2014 film mentioned above. A film that stands for a move towards the mainstream, big budget, tentpole studio hyped release that certainly didn't fare well with critics nor audiences - the Transformers-and-Fast and the Furious-swilling masses, or the established cult of Aronofsky. I don't believe you dwell in a bubble, Darren. I know you know how it was received. Thanks to this exact online format, I know how it was too. That's why it's kind of hard to divorce your obvious contempt and hatred for audiences-at-large within 'mother!' for anyone who decides to invest time in your art.
Honestly, I find it well and truly beneath you. I find it beneath anyone over the age of ten. Remember how I said I've been told to fuck off, like, a lot? It doesn't just mean the explicit cussing. It comes across as that way in every single piece of criticism I've received as a teenager, an adult, a professional, a student, however it may be - no matter the form though, I've grown enough to parse them and take things away from it. In the moment, I might shout back - full throated, or through a clenched smile - but eventually I sit and reflect. It might be the other parties fault, it might be mine. The point is that in those reflections, I think about my actions and how it got to that point, and how I can correct that in the future. I've realised I'm not infallible. I don't think past the age of six or so did I ever receive negative feedback, to only turn around and come back some time later with a multi-million temper tantrum. I didn't think anyone would ever do that, until I saw 'mother!'.
On one hand, the fuckin' balls on you, man. Holy shit. 'mother!' does exactly what art is meant to, provoke visceral responses, stick in your craw, make you claw at the small and stringy thoughts at the base of your brain and question the foundation of your knowledge. However, I absolutely fucking despise the fact that to do so, you've had to wrap your egotistical movement under the thinly-laid veil of faux-femininity and mental illness (that directly conflict each other, making mockeries or both) and lashed out at literally everyone involved in every step of the cinematic process. Part of me wants to tell you to fuck off right back to your face, that cinema is a collaborative art practice that doesn't end at production - audiences and reception are as much a part of the process as the director is. The other part of me wants to applaud you for crafting a divisive work of art that cinema hasn't seen in decades.
Love you, and go fuck yourself.