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Friday, September 29, 2017

Why Mother Matters

Written by  Brian George Hose

Some people love it, most people hate it. I’m talking about Mother the new movie from filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, creator of brilliant-but-hard-to-watch movies like Requiem for a Dream and the award-winning Black Swan. His new effort has been called “divisive” and for good reason: It’s an art film with a wide release, marketed as a mainstream movie starring Jennifer Lawrence. Critics generally like it, but Mother is the first movie since 2012 to be rated “F” by audiences via CinemaScore. The film is allegory, steeped in metaphor and wrapped in symbolism, wherein everything has more than one meaning. Critics can’t even agree on its genre. Is it horror? Drama? Maybe even a subversive comedy? No wonder people are leaving the theater confused (if they didn’t walk out before the end credits started rolling).

To be clear, this is not an endorsement or even a recommendation to see Mother It’s simply not a movie everyone will enjoy. Paramount, the studio behind the movie, has issued a statement saying as much. With that in mind, I will say that I loved it and would eagerly watch it a second and even third time. The reason is simple: I love a good puzzle and the movie is nothing short of puzzling. Perhaps this is why audiences and critics are so divided – we’re all given the same pieces of the puzzle, but each of us assembles them differently, creating our own story. In effect, every person in the audience sees a completely different movie based on their understanding and interpretation of the characters, relationships, and events – a powerful reminder that art is open to interpretation and that ultimately we must decide what it means to us.

I thought about this as I was leaving the theater, weaving my way through groups of people asking each other, “But what was it about? What did it mean?” To be fair, I wasn’t entirely sure of that myself. I had tried not to spoil the movie for myself by reading reviews, but somehow a helpful piece of advice had gotten through my firewall: Don’t try to analyze the movie until it’s over. Just go along for the ride, feel the frenzied disorientation, and think about it later. Trust me, there’s a lot to talk about, especially because everyone who sees it takes away something different.

Whether or not you see Mother and whether or not you like it, I believe this is an important movie for the times we live in. There are a number of reasons I won’t mention for risk of spoiling it, but what I will say is that it’s important because it asks us to think for ourselves and find our own meaning. So much of what we see in the media, be it TV, the news (real or “fake”), and the internet is presented as definitive truth. The trouble is that life, like art, is open to interpretation.

When we only see one perspective we miss out on the big picture and our understanding becomes limited. By not asking questions and considering other perspectives we accept the meaning that we’re given, which in turn limits us as individuals and, collectively, as a community and even a nation. When we blindly believe what we’re told it means we’ve stopped thinking for ourselves and, inadvertently, encouraged and participated in the Us-versus-Them culture that is modern life. With Mother we are reminded that not everything is as it seems, and it’s a reminder worth remembering.

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