(Netflix Streaming, July 2018) Whew—In today’s bland unchallenging environment for movies aimed at the multiplex, it’s almost refreshing do see a film designed to divide audiences. Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! may be a lot of things (and I suspect that it may not even understand what it is, and may offer deliberate wild goose chases) but it’s certainly not made to be safe, likable or bland. Conceived on a deliberately metaphoric register, it does not take refuge in mimetic realism or conventional plotting: it’s metaphors piled upon metaphors, with Christian symbolism blended with horror-movie visuals, audience-alienating images and a steadfast refusal to offer anything like explanation or comfort. It’s very pretentious and charmingly daring at once, challenging audiences to dislike it. The film has more emotional than narrative meaning, and that can lead to some profoundly self-contradictory feelings about the film in the same reviewer. Reading about Mother!, I was convinced that I would hate it: I don’t react well to non-narrative films, I’m far too quick to label experimental work as pretentious, and the multiplicity of interpretations about the film had me rolling my eyes—especially as the Bible metaphors were being sized up for fitting. But watching it was far easier than I expected—there’s a progressively frantic rhythm to Mother!, and the fascination of seeing what was going to happen next (especially in the film’s most nightmarish moments) easily outweighed the desire to have it make sense, especially once properly forewarned that the film escapes most rational interpretations. While I know that there’s a lot of what Mother! tries to do in experimental arthouse cinema, I rarely see those films, and they don’t usually have the means (the name actors, the special effects budget, or Aronofsky’s expertise as a writer/director) to execute their full vision. And Mother! is indeed about a highly personal and idiosyncratic direction. I actually dislike quite a bit of what writer/director Aronofsky’s is doing here—I think that his use of Jennifer Lawrence compounds the growing exasperation I’ve got with her overexposure (including her being usually too young for the roles she’s being asked to play, although this may not count in a fable such as here), I think that he’s deliberately creating false leads in an attempt to create perceive depths, and I think that the violence goes too far. And yet, and yet, I do end up with a growing liking of the result, even as I’ve renounced to even try to make sense of it. Mother! remains a defiantly unusual ride, and those are all too rare in multiplexes nowadays.