Warning: Major spoilers for mother!
You’ve seen weird movies, but you’ve seen nothing like mother! It’s a film that demands discussion and debate, not least about its intense, WTF ending.
Darren Aronofsky’s always made films that get under the skin and challenge the mind – from brain-drilling debut Pi by way of intense tour de forces Requiem for a Dream and The Foutain, Oscar-winning success-deconstructions The Wrestler and Black Swan and long-gestating passion project Noah – but his latest brings all those threads together into something wholly unique.
Related: How Scary is mother?
But what actually is mother! about? Even if you’ve seen the movie that’s hard to pin down. It’s not the home invasion thriller of the trailer yet still has that creeping tension. It’s not the all-out horror some are praising it as yet still contains some of the darkest things you’ll see in a cinema this year. Put simply, it’s a film that doubles as literal and metaphor: the film is plainly a chilling story of a married couple losing their intimacy, while figuratively a blunt dissection of creation.
We’re going to look at both sides today in our mother! ending explainer. But let’s first start by tackling those biggest dangling questions.
mother! Movie Plot Explained (This Page)
Who Are The Couple And Why Don’t They Come Back?
As we start the film, Him (Javier Bardem) and mother (Jennifer Lawrence) live in relative harmony; He is a struggling writer who craves appreciation to continue his work, she’s driven to restore the house, both are happy. Then the couple arrives.
Two characters known only as Man (Ed Harris) and Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) turn up separately at the house, at first seemingly merely lost but it soon becomes clear they’re fans of His work and that Man is sick, wanting to see the writer before he died. mother, already exhausted by her husband’s hospitality and the couple’s seeming disregard for her house, snaps when they sneak into His office and break the life-giving crystal (more on that later). She demands they leave. However, the couple’s sons turn up to debate their inheritance from their dying father, and in the process his Oldest Son (Domhnall Gleeson) kills the Youngest Son (Brian Gleeson). The former runs away and the couple and Him take the dead son to the hospital. mother cleans up and finds the blood has somehow infested the house. He then returns with the couple and their ever-growing extended family, overrunning the house and invading their privacy until mother boils over and demands they leave for good.
On a basic level, the couple are plot motivators. All of this leads to conflict between Him and mother that boils over into the movie’s pivotal creation: they have sex for the first time in what appears to be an age from which she becomes pregnant, while seeing all those people gives Him the inspiration to write his masterwork. But they also have a more subtle effect. The blood of the Youngest Son somehow infects the house, remaining a fleshy mark in the house’s floor that can’t be removed or covered up; a physical representation of the mental stress the experience has placed on mother.
As for why Man and Woman don’t return? Well, it’s simple – they were told to go. mother, for lack of better word, banished them from the house.
What Is The Poem and Why Does It Have Such An Impact?
The content of the poem Him writes that starts the final descent isn’t revealed in the film. That is, of course, incredibly purposeful; the point isn’t what it actually says, rather what it represents. When mother reads it, she sees a visual representation of the house’s creation – Him and mother embrace in the clearing and their love gives the building and surrounding area life – very similar to the sequence of life-giving in Noah (which has grander thematic links – stick around).
Related: What Does The Poem in mother! Say?
It inspires others too in a variety of different, personal ways, driving many, many more to visit the house. The poet loves the adoration and wants to welcome anyone into the house, while mother fights against it. Her apprehension is proven right, as the culture built around her husband goes from a faith-based mob into outright destruction. The film’s already fluid presentation of time (something established early on with the suddenly-massive party) reaches fever pitch in this sequence; we take a step further into anarchy pretty much every time the now-heavily pregnant mother enters a new room.
And that’s all from the poem. The full meaning will be explored later, but at its core we have the director highlighting insane devotion from a small piece of text and how a creator takes that.
Why Does The Mob Kill The Baby?
mother takes sanctuary in His office and has their child, who her husband wants to show to his acolytes. She refuses repeatedly but He eventually gets his way, leading to one of the film’s most shocking sequences: the crowd surfs the baby and then begins tearing it apart. It’s suggestive yet still incredibly gruesome and horrifying, amplified by Lawrence’s screams.
In a full-on crazy ending, this may be the most logically-presented element. It happens because, to the crowd, there’s little distinction between the poem they adore and this other product of Him. They feel ownership of the paper and the human in equal measure and want a literal piece of it.
And, with that established, we can now take a look at the bigger picture and the confusing ending.
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