R18: Violence, horror, cruelty, offensive language and content that may disturb
This page outlines how the classification criteria were applied. We do our best to discuss the content while avoiding spoilers, but please avoid reading this information if you do not want to learn anything about the content of this movie.
Mother! is the latest film by writer/director Darren Aronofsky.
A young woman, who is never named but is listed in the credits as ‘Mother’, busies herself in a vast, unfamiliar house, trying to renovate it after a serious fire. Her older husband (also unnamed) is a brilliant poet, acclaimed all over the world for his insight into humanity and his mastery of language. They love each other deeply, but their relationship is fraught with tension. He has writer’s block and she is obsessed with restoration of the old house which has a mystical life of its own. When uninvited guests move in they exacerbate tensions in the relationship. After Mother becomes pregnant the dramatic intensity builds to a shattering and increasingly fantastical conclusion.
Date registered: 22/09/2017
Depictions of cruelty intensify throughout the film and are increasingly associated with violence and horror.
Cruelty is mostly seen through the eyes of Mother, the only character in the film who appears to be courteous and sincere. Her husband is arrogant and self-indulgent. He does not notice, or consciously ignores, the obnoxious behaviour of the uninvited guests, and their effect on Mother. They invade her sanctuary, the renovated house, and mock her homeliness, childlessness and apparent inability to satisfy her husband. They physically damage the house she has painstakingly restored.
More loathsome visitors arrive at the house further into the film and treat Mother with overt contempt. For example, when one of the guests makes advances towards Mother, she rejects him and he responds by calling her an “arrogant cunt”. Soon after her husband chides her for being uncharitable.
The film becomes exponentially more horrific and nightmarish as it progresses, employing fantastical and gory imagery. For example, a bloody, seemingly supernatural hole in the floor opens up following a horrific murder in the house. When Mother goes to the basement to see where it is going, blood pours down the walls and eats into concrete that seals a secret room.
A strong part of the horror comes from people behaving in unpredictable and sociopathic ways that disorientate the viewer and increase the nightmarish tone. Hundreds of devoted fans descend on the house following a brief respite when Mother becomes pregnant. They initially desecrate the house in variety of ways including one man urinating on the floor. Armed police and riotous devotees engage in pitched battles. The house eventually looks like a war zone with people being herded into cages as explosions rage around them.
During this mayhem Mother eventually gives birth, accompanied by loud sound effects and chanting. Her baby is subsequently torn apart and eaten by the crowd – depicted by briefly showing the baby’s mutilated torso on an altar and people nibbling small pieces of flesh.
The brutal and disturbing concluding scenes suggest that numerous people are killed, conveyed by rapid gunfire and screaming. Riot police shoot people and herd others into cages. One, who is trying to protect Mother, is shot in the face and his lower jaw is shot off leaving a bloody mass. A leader of the devotees has several prisoners bound and hooded on the floor. She shoots them dead in cold blood. Mother, distraught after the discovery of her baby’s body, is further traumatised by the apparent callousness of the attackers. In a rage, she uses a shard of glass to stab several of them. In response she is slammed onto the ground by the devotees who repeatedly punch and kick her, focused on by the camera as her face becomes bruised and bloody.
The film is a thought-provoking, highly allegorical and supernatural narrative that is open to interpretation. Viewers are likely to find the relentless cruelty and violence gruelling and upsetting, particularly given the sympathetic portrayal of Mother. The film’s strongest content deals with taboo subjects such as infanticide and cannibalism to convey its abstract themes but does so mostly without resorting to graphic depiction. However, the brutal murder and consumption of a new-born baby is likely to have a lasting impact on even an adult audience. Children and teenagers are likely to be deeply disturbed by the high degree of horror, cruelty and realistically depicted injury. Adults are likely to have the maturity, analytical skills and experience to distance themselves from the depictions. They are in a much better position to identify and appreciate the abstract and otherworldly context, which will partly mitigate the aforementioned effects on viewers. Considering these elements, the film is restricted to people aged 18 and over.