Why Everyone Should See Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Mother!’


My interest in Mother!, the Darren Aronofsky film starring Jennifer Lawrence, wasn’t strong leading up to its September 15 release.   Aronofsky is a filmmaker I greatly respect, but I find myself appreciating his work more than I enjoy or love it.  

And then I came across the headline “Mother! receives ‘F’ Cinemascore” and I knew I had to see this film.  And here are the reasons why I believe everyone should see Darren Aronofsky’s new film Mother! starring Jennifer Lawrence.

Mother! is one of the most polarizing films in recent history.

Critics have generally been positive with their reviews.  Mother! has a 68% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 74 score on Metacritic.  However, the CinemaScore for Mother! Is a solid F.  What a film’s CinemaScore represents is how favorable (or unfavorable) the film was to those who were excited about the film enough to see it on its opening weekend.  

Everything suggests that Mother! is a film you will either love or hate, but you won’t be neutral.  It elicits a strong reaction and judgment from those who watch it.  Unlike most of the 19 films that have received an ‘F’ CinemaScore, Mother! didn’t receive overwhelmingly negative reviews from professional critics.  So the film has a substantial divide between critics and cinemagoers.

Mother! is one of the few allegorical and symbolic films created by mainstream filmmakers and artists.

Mention the word “allegory” and movie lovers get squeamish.  And yet, some of the most revered and acclaimed films can be labeled “allegories.”  The most noteworthy allegorical films made by mainstream filmmakers include A Clockwork Orange by Stanley Kubrick, Natural Born Killers by Oliver Stone, Fight Club by David Fincher, Tree of Life by Terrance Malick, and District 9 by Neill Blomkamp.  And while folks can endlessly debate how successful each film is in its attempt to communicate its themes, symbols, and message, the cinematic world is a richer place for giving these films a national audience.

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Consequently, the marketing strategy for these films tends to emphasize star power and the genre of film.  And thus, the marketing campaign misleads cinemagoers about the film they are about to see, resulting in frustration, disappointment, and an ‘F’ on the favorability score.

Film is not just meant to entertain.

Just like a rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes shouldn’t deter someone from seeing a film, a CinemaScore of ‘F’ shouldn’t automatically sway someone to avoid Mother!, because simply put, filmmakers like Darren Aronofsky are a rare commodity in the American, Hollywood film system.  

A lot of great films by great artists challenge their audiences.  They are not always successful, but at least they attempt to create art that isn’t disposable to the point that it is devoid of artistic creativity.  Other films that have challenged me and evoked great discomfort within me include Dogtooth, The Lobster, Life is Beautiful, Oldboy, the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Lynch, and much, much more.  I didn’t enjoy many of these films.  I also don’t fully comprehend several of these movies.  But I am glad I watched them.

It’s okay to respect and appreciate a film without liking it.

Is a film only successful if you enjoy it?  My colleague Josh Jensen has defended the film Synecdoche, New York, the 2008 film written and directed by Charlie Kaufman.  Many of our fellow colleagues loathe the film.  They find it pretentious and laborious to watch.  I am in agreement with all of them.  Synecdoche, New York is a film I respect, appreciate, and would argue is a great film.  But I didn’t “enjoy” watching it, and I certainly don’t ever need to watch it again.  But the film challenged me, and I found myself thinking about the film long after it was over.  

Don’t shy away from the polarizing film.  Lean into the ‘F’ CinemaScore.  Go see Mother! and tell us what you think about Jennifer Lawrence’s latest film.


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