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Film / mother! (2017)

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"All I'm trying to do is bring life into this house! Open the door to new people, new ideas!"

mother! is a 2017 Psychological Horror film written and directed by Darren Aronofsky. It stars Javier Bardem, Jennifer Lawrence, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer, among others.

The film centers around the poet "Him" (Bardem) and his pregnant wife "mother" (Lawrence), who share a tranquil existence in a country home that is interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious Man (Harris). The Man's presence leads to a string of uninvited visitors, who are all welcomed by Him.

Meanwhile, mother grows alarmed by the presence of the strangers, who impose more and more on her hospitality. With Him deaf to her pleas, she's left increasingly helpless as circumstances spiral wildly out of control.

The idea for mother! came to Aronofsky while he was working on a children's film following the release of his 2014 film Noah; he reportedly wrote the film's first draft in an uncharacteristically fast five days.

mother! contains examples of:

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  • 24-Hour Party People: The mysterious constant stream of new guests to the Younger Brother's wake whose connection to the family is never explained and who seem more interested in debauchery than mourning. It gets worse in the second act when they switch focus to Him.
  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Him enjoys the idea of having fans just a little too much.
  • The Alcoholic: Man and Woman seem unable to function without alcohol — Man with his beloved hip flask and Woman with her "special lemonade recipe". It seems to be a trait also shared by most of their friends and family.
  • all lowercase letters: What the film's title and character names (save for Him) are styled like.
  • All Myths Are True: Maybe not myths, but mother is apparently both the mother of Christ (i.e. Mary) and Mother Nature herself.
  • All There in the Manual: Audience members at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival were given cards printed with a gender-reversed version of the Lord's Prayer written by feminist author Rebecca Solnit. This card pretty much spoils the central "twist" that the movie is a deconstructive biblical allegory that criticizes Abrahamic religion.
  • Always with You: Him employs this trope to comfort the Man and Woman after the Younger Brother's death. This backfires when Him's followers take it literally and decide to butcher and eat his son after they kill him, so the baby will always be "inside" them.
  • Anachronism Stew: Although Man and Woman's dialogue — and their cellphones — seem to indicate the story takes place in the modern day, Him and mother's house contains no appliances more advanced than a simple washer/dryer set and a landline phone. mother says they've chosen to live a simple life, but Him doing his writing using a fountain pen on parchment seems extreme. (And raises the question of how exactly he submitted the manuscript to his publisher.) Justified in that the film is intended as a surreal allegory, and shortly after the publication of Him's new book, all pretense of realism breaks down completely.
  • Animate Body Parts: Mother finds a squirming, wriggling human heart clogging the toilet and quickly flushes it. This is far from the grossest thing that happens in the film.
  • Arc Words: "You give and you give and it's never enough."
  • Artistic License – Religion: To a good portion of the audience, regardless of whatever this movie is saying, it makes no damned sense according to even symbolic logic, mostly because the symbols are incoherent and deployed in ways that only make sense according to Word of God's idiosyncratic interpretation of religion and environmentalism, and falls apart to anyone deeply familiar with it, with either and/or both:
    • Regardless of one's sentiment towards religion, it has very little to do with the debate of global warming and to the extent it does (such as using selective Biblical interpretation to deny climate change science), the film is pretty useless in addressing it, especially since the ending shows that the world of the film has Eternal Recurrence, where a new mother and new house emerge from the previous one's ashes, which is more or less the contrary to climate change activists' warnings of irreversible harm and it affirms denialists' belief that climate change is a matter of "natural cycles" that naturally repair themselves.
    • The film's take on the Judeo-Christian theology which it addresses via allegory falls apart on the basis of Fridge Logic. To start with, in Aronofsky's view, mother represents Mother Nature and Him is God the Father. Now, "mother nature" is not a biblical concept at all; it's a folkloric concept, dating to 1266 AD, making it less than a thousand years old. Secondly, if Him is God and mother is Earth, if God created the earth, then that would mean the married couple are committing incest and Him is marrying and impregnating his own daughter. However, that last part is consistent with the biblical conception of Jesus.
    • The film implies that the baby is Jesus, and the baby getting eaten by people is meant as a Take That! about how Humans Are Bastards. The problem is that Jesus intended to and willingly chose to sacrifice himself for humanity, his death happened while he was an adult, and after a day and a half he was resurrected.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Teased, then averted. Mother hopes once Him has a child, he will finally put his family before his pathological need to please his fans. He does not. To a horrifying degree.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Mother. She more or less is a nice and decent person who, while reluctant, does go on with Him's apparent hospitality to the people around them. When they keep endlessly pushing her and cause the death of her baby, she shows no mercy.
  • Big "NO!": Several, courtesy of Mother.
    • Mother does this halfway through the third act, in particular with the taking and killing of her infant son.
    • When Him tries to convince her to forgive the people for killing their child, she lets out one so powerful in fury that it breaks the house foundations, cementing her as a status of Mother Nature.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": When Man and Woman break Him's jewel and start copiously apologizing and asking if they can pay for another one, Him silences them both with a loud "QUIET!"easily the angriest we've seen him thus far in the movie.
  • Bilingual Bonus: One portion of the crowd at the end is chanting "So, So, So, Solidarité!" (means exactly what it seems to), while another chants "¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!" ("The people united will never be defeated!"). Both are used in protests in certain places around the world.
  • Blatant Lies: The Man shows up on Him and mother's doorstep randomly, claiming to have been told their house (in the middle of nowhere with no road leading to it) is a B&B. Then he discovers by pure chance that Him is his favorite author and a role model of his. Mother is unsurprised when poking in his luggage reveals a photo of Him, indicating the Man was a stalker from the beginning.
  • Body to Jewel: Throughout the film, much focus is placed on a pulsating jewel that Him has in his study, where he says it was the one thing left behind in a fire that happened when he was younger. The jewel breaks. At the end of the film, Him rips the dying mother's heart out, it becomes another jewel, and when he places the jewel back in his study, another woman wakes up in his bed - implying that the old jewel that broke was from a woman before Mother.
  • Bookends: The film begins and ends with the fiery death of a young woman, Him placing a jewel on a pedestal, the house regenerating itself from its ashes, and a new woman waking up in bed and calling, "Baby?"
  • Broken Aesop: Darren Aronofsky has stated in interviews that the film is a parable for environmentalism and climate change. The problem is that the ending's theme of Eternal Recurrence, where a new mother and new house emerge from the previous one's ashes, seems to undermine climate change activists' warnings of irreversible harm and affirm denialists' belief that climate change is a matter of "natural cycles" that naturally repair themselves.
    • Although, it does play more like a great extinction than a reversible incident. The three mothers we see aren't the same, for all we know they could be different planets.
  • Cain and Abel: The sons of Man and Woman. The oldest son even kills his younger brother, and gets a bloody mark on his forehead for his effort.
  • Camp: Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer clearly have a lot of fun playing up Man and Woman's grating personalities. Critics have noted it injects an almost sitcom-like tone into an otherwise somber psychodrama.
  • Cassandra Truth: Mother repeatedly warns her unwanted guests the kitchen sink won't hold their weight when they lean or sit on it. They ignore her and taunt her by intentionally bouncing up and down on it, at which point it breaks off and begins to flood the house, bringing their party to an end. A reference to the Great Flood and/or climate change.
  • Casting Gag: Real-life brothers Domhnall and Brian Gleeson play warring brothers (literally) Cain and Abel.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: Him and mother don't care for cell phones and have chosen to live in the middle of nowhere, with no service to be had. The Man and Woman have smartphones — a nod to them seeming to be more modern, realistic characters than Him and mother— but can't use them, with the only access to the outside world the landline in the kitchen. This becomes a problem.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The Man's cigarette lighter.
    • A lesser example — Him snaps off the doorknob to his study in a rage after Man and Woman enter without his permission. Mother is too distraught to pick it up. It becomes the Improvised Weapon the Oldest Son grabs to beat Younger Brother to death.
    • The basement door.
  • Children Are Innocent: Played straight with the baby who feels nothing but hunger, love and pain before his death. Brutally defied with the children in the crowd who are shown eating pieces of him alongside the adults.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: After Man and Woman violate the only rule mother gave them and break Him's crystal, she goes to their room to kick them out — only to find them shamelessly having wild sex with the door unlocked. This can be interpreted as a reference to the cultural association between the Forbidden Fruit and the act of sex, especially considering Woman's bra has a leaf motif in this scene, referring to Adam and Eve hiding their nakedness with leaves.
  • Complete Immortality: Him survives the exploding house and turns out to be much older than previously implied. Contrast mother, who turns out to be The Nth Doctor.
  • Corrupt Church: Him's admirers adopt every stereotypical trapping of this trope in the final minutes of the film, for the benefit of viewers still confused about the central metaphor. The primary visual inspiration is Creepy Catholicism, with the candles everywhere and, of course, the Twisted Eucharist.
  • Country Matters: The word is used to very disturbing effect in at least two occasions, both involving mother: when a random person's advances are promptly rejected by her and he calls her an "arrogant cunt," and when mother is beaten and stripped by the crowd, with a few "cunts" sprinkled in alongside other extremely vulgar and derogatory terms.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The credits are in a "handwritten" font mimicking Him's writing on parchment during the film, with a few stray strokes added as they roll implying he's still writing even now — a gesture to the idea that Him is an Author Avatar for Aronofsky.
  • Creative Sterility: Him is an esteemed poet going through a rough patch of writer's block. He gets over it eventually, but the price is steep. Very steep.
  • Creepy Basement: Very much so early on when mother goes down there and finds the mysterious oil room. It becomes a Chekhov's Gun as well.
  • Cult of Personality: Him's fans start as this. Over time, the "cult" part gets increasingly literal.
  • Darker and Edgier: According to early reports, the film is possibly Aronofsky's darkest and most controversial film to date, with author Mylo Carbia even comparing its potential for controversy to A Clockwork Orange. Given his filmography, that's a very bold statement.
  • Death of a Child: mother's infant child is murdered and eaten by the crowd.
  • Dissonant Serenity: HIM. He has largely joyful reactions to everything that happens and flat-out dismisses Mother's concerns until it's too late.
  • Divine Race Lift: Javier Bardem, a Spaniard (with a noticeable accent), inserts a deliberate otherness into Him, in contrast to the americans playing the other characters even if they're all caucasian.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: There are a lot of allusions to the Book of Genesis and The Four Gospels.
  • Downer Ending: After her child's brutal murder and cannibalism, mother flies into a rage and burns the entire house down, leaving Him as the only survivor. Afterwards, Him rips her heart out of her charred body, revealing a gem inside which he uses to begin again, restoring the destroyed house to brand new after placing it on a pedestal. Furthermore, he now has an even younger wife, and it's very likely that everything that happened will ultimately repeat itself.
  • Easily Forgiven: A virtue preached by Him, when he proclaims his eulogy is not just for the Younger Brother but also the Oldest Son who murdered him, and also practiced by Him with his absurd tolerance of strangers mistreating his home and his wife. Culminates with Him asking mother to forgive the houseguests even after they killed and ate her son. She declines.
  • Eats Babies: What Him's followers to do his and mother's child at the end.
  • Empathic Environment: Mother stops holding in her feelings at the same time that the broken sink begins to flood the house at the same time that it begins to rain outside. A hint that mother, her house and the outside world are all one.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Barring any invisible Time Skips, the first half of the movie (before mother's pregnancy) takes place over the course of three days, the second half over the course of two. Particularly blatant as the second half gives us the rise of a militaristic theocratic government within the course of one evening and localized to one house. Justified, as by the second half the film gives up all pretense of hiding its nature as an allegory for The Bible and all of human history.
  • Eternal Recurrence: The repeated destruction and re-creation of Him and mother's house, representing the cyclical nature of the universe.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Him is immediately struck by inspiration for his next poem after he and mother make love. As in the Trope Namer, he doesn't bother to put on clothes before running to write it down.
  • Facial Markings: When greeting his line of autograph seekers, Him accidentally brushes one of them on the face with ink-stained hands, leaving a thumbprint on his forehead. His overjoyed fans all begin asking to receive "the mark"; by the end of the film, the thumbprint on the forehead has officially become the Initiation Ceremony to a literal cult.
  • Fan Disservice: Jennifer Lawrence's breasts are briefly visible when her character is attacked by a mob and they try to rip off her clothes. There's nothing sexy about the scene.
  • Fan Dumb: In-universe example. Him's followers take their love his works to such extremes that it results in absolute pandemonium, murder and eventually mother killing all of them out of anger for the abuse they put her through.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Played with. Man is revealed to be dying of an illness, and reveals he has children, complete with wallet photos he proudly shows to Him and mother. This is a Pet the Dog moment for the otherwise unlikable Man and Woman and makes mother feel guilty about her intentions to kick them out. Subverted, as it ends up not being Man who dies (onscreen, anyway) but his son.
  • Flat Character: A common criticism of the film is that the religious and environmental analogies squeeze out any room for character development. The eponymous character is defined entirely by her single-minded devotion to Him.
  • Foil: Mother and the Woman, especially in their heated laundry room conversation. The Woman plays the aging, world wise Vamp while mother is the naive Ingenue, mirroring the contrasting public personas of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jennifer Lawrence.
  • Forbidden Fruit: Him's study, which he doesn't like people going into unsupervised, and the pretty crystal on display within. A direct reference to the Trope Namer from the Bible.
  • Forceful Kiss: mother confronts Him, furious and in tears about their Sexless Marriage, and he responds with one of these. She resists, saying "No" several times before beginning to passionately reciprocate. Note that the only overtly sexual contact between Him and mother in the movie is non-consensual.
  • Foreshadowing: The Man has an injury on his ribs, which Him tries to help cover up. The next day, the Woman—the Man's wife—arrives. God took a piece of Adam's ribs to create Eve.
    • After Mother becomes pregnant, she jokingly makes a remark about getting started on the Apocalypse.
  • Friend or Foe?: As the houseguests begin to tear her house apart, mother briefly manages to call 911 before being cut off. By the time the police SWAT team arrives, the situation has already deteriorated into chaos and mother herself almost gets arrested as one of the home invaders. Then the houseguests somehow arm themselves and start shooting back, the cops begin to turn on each other, and a fully militarized conflict begins with mother a forgotten afterthought.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Him's publisher (played by Kristen Wiig, credited as "herald") goes in a matter of a few eventful hours from a chipper media flack organizing his autograph line to brutally executing prisoners in his name.

  • Garden of Eden: The central motif. mother represents the untarnished Earth, Him represents God, and man, woman, and their sons, whose arrival disrupts and defiles mother, represent Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel.
  • Genius Loci: Mother. It gradually becomes apparent that she experiences invasion of or damage to the house as physical pain, and her emotional distress makes the house buckle and shake. She alone of all the characters never steps off the house's front porch into the outside world. And it turns out the heartbeat she hears within the walls is her own.
  • Get Out!: Mother, who consistently demands it. At one point, she finally makes them do it.
  • Girly Girl: Zigzagged. Mother is proud and happy to do all of the traditional Housewife tasks like cooking and cleaning, but she also takes on the physically strenuous work of plumbing and carpentry in renovating her house. And while everyone finds her beautiful, other women like the Woman and the Herald (Him's publicist) seem to look down on her for her simple clothes and lack of sophistication. All plays into her true identity as personified Nature.
  • God Is Evil: At least some of the strangers consider Him this, as there are a number of pictures of Him seen throughout the film that are vandalized and depict him with horns like Satan (starting with the Oldest Son vandalizing his father's keepsake photo). And in contrast to Aronofsky's Noah, the ending makes it hard to disagree.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: Him is so eager to please the strangers that come to the house that he doesn't stop then from totally trashing the place, and even killing and devouring his newborn son, all while completely disregarding mother's protests. And when mother finally snaps and burns down the house and everybody in it, Him simply tears her heart out and starts over.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Man's constant smoking despite mother's admonition she doesn't allow cigarettes in the house establishes him as a Jerkass and repeatedly causes minor damage to mother's home and possessions. Thanks to mother swiping Man's lighter, his smoking even indirectly causes the apocalyptic ending of the film.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Subverted to present what's been cited as one of the film's most haunting visuals; if you really don't fancy seeing a newborn baby's neck snap like a twig, you're shit out of luck for this film.
  • Green Aesop: Do not abuse Mother Nature. She is long suffering and generous, but if you cross the line, she will literally burn down everything, including herself.
  • Gut Punch: mother's baby's neck cracking.
  • Hair-Trigger Sound Effect: Played with in a subtle, unnerving way. Every scene in which the point of view is within Him's study, there is a soft, chime-like tone. There are three exceptions: first, when the Man and Woman break the crystal, the chime momentarily disappears; second, the chime does not sound when the mother is giving birth; and third, the same chime sounds as the exclamation point is drawn during the title card.
  • Hates Being Alone: Him is addicted to being around people. He seems to love everyone he meets, no matter how repulsive they come across to us and to mother — he waxes lyrical about wanting to hear "all of their stories". The one moment he lashes out in open hostility to mother, he calls their isolated house (and marriage) "suffocating".
  • Hate Sink:
    • Him is a self-absorbed poet who allows humanity to trash His house, making him indirectly responsible for all of the atrocities they commit in the film, and inadvertently causes the death of His son when the hordes accidentally kill and eat him. Even when He saves mother from being beaten, He tries to convince her to forgive the crowd and later rips her heart out to start the cycle anew.
    • In an overly environmental film, humanity proves once again capable of committing horrible acts. Upon becoming fans of Him, they vandalize the house, wage wars over interpretations of his work, massacre crowds, distribute slaves through trading, and grisly eat mother's baby son in an ultimate act of depravity after accidentally killing him.
  • Hates the Job, Loves the Limelight: Him is defined by this trope. He openly admits to mother he'd much rather talk to people about his writing than actually write.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The trailer's music sounds like someone's trying to saw a violin, complete with Jump Scare.
  • Hot God: Javier Bardem as Him. To the point of Mr. Fanservice as he leaps out of bed to begin writing completely in the nude.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Potentially EVERYONE.
  • Humans Are Bastards: All of the various people Him keeps inviting over to the house keep stealing items and damaging the property. Then, when mother's baby is born, the mob kills him and eats his flesh. Of course, this is all an allegory for humanity's treatment of Earth and Jesus.
  • I Am What I Am: A rare instance where this trope is simultaneously used in its biblical and its Popeye sense. mother, upon seeing Him miraculously survive the fire that destroyed the house unscathed, asks, "What are you?" He replies, "I am I," revealing that he is YHWH or God. He regretfully goes on to tell her his actions are intrinsic to his role as the Creator. "I need to create. That's what I do; that's what I am."
  • Improvised Weapon: The older brother brutally beats his younger brother with a brass doorknob. Towards the end, mother stabs at least several people with a shard of glass.
  • Ironic Echo: The priest repeats Him's eulogy at the Younger Brother's wake as a benediction while his followers ritually murder Him's son and consume his flesh.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Not only does Mother's child get brutally killed, his killers then proceed to partake in his flesh.
  • Informed Ability: Him's brilliance as a writer, which everyone is in awe of — including mother, even when she's otherwise upset with Him — never gets shared with the audience. This plays into how the audience likely finds him less likable or sympathetic than everyone onscreen seems to. His eulogy for Younger Brother, which moves everyone present to tears, is a fairly standard Always with You speech (though to be fair in that moment he's improvising, and deep in the throes of a months-long Writer's Block). In ordinary conversation he's hardly particularly eloquent or persuasive — most notably in his total failure to talk down Oldest Son or mother from violence.
  • It's All About Me: Mother repeatedly accuses Him of this, accurately. The last thing she tells him before burning down the house: "You never loved me. You just loved how much I loved you."
  • It Always Rains at Funerals: Subverted. Younger Brother dies on a clear sunny day, and there's no rain at his wake that night, which quickly turns into an occasion for revelry and debauchery rather than mourning. It only starts raining when the broken sink forces the party to an end, restoring the proper somber tone.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: When mother wakes up after giving birth, she notices the sounds of violence from downstairs have completely stopped. It turns out the birth of her child has ended the war among Him's followers. This turns out not to be a good thing.
  • Jerkass: Every single character in the movie aside from mother and Him is deeply unpleasant to a downright sociopathic level, though special mention goes Michelle Pfeiffer's character. Him tries so hard to be a Nice Guy that he eventually warps around to this.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • The Woman never gets any call out for her sociopathic and crass comments on Mother. It's not even known if she was in the crowd of people who were burned alive when Mother finally destroyed the house. Him as well considering he simply resets everything anew.
    • Subverted with Him's followers until they ate Mother's baby and she finally snapped and destroys them with the fire.
  • Kill It with Fire: How mother ultimately deals with Him and his followers. Him is the only survivor.
  • King Incognito: Him ends up needing to wear a mask to walk through his own house unmolested.
  • Last Request: The Man is dying of an unnamed illness, and wanted to meet his literary idol (Him) before he died. He keeps pushing the specific terms of his request, however — from staying the night to him and his wife staying indefinitely to hosting his son's wake — with catastrophic results.
  • Made of Incendium: Setting fire to the oil tank instantly burns up not only the house, but also the surrounding lawn, woods and possibly the entire world.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: Mother's final Skyward Scream when she refuses to forgive her son's murderers is loud enough to rock the house's foundation, cracking the floor wide open. Reflects mother's nature as the Genius Loci to her house. And the beginning of the apocalypse, with the crack leading to the basement the now-open gates of hell.
  • Make-Out Kids: Man and Woman, despite being significantly older than Him and mother. Contributes to mother's discomfort with having them as guests, and culminates in blatant, intentional Coitus Uninterruptus as a show of disrespect. As with everything else Man and Woman do, this behavior escalates with each new wave of houseguests.
  • May–December Romance: Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem's characters who are also the main couple. It's justified because Lawrence's character is not Bardem's first wife. Ed Harris' lampshaded this when he thought that Lawrence's character is Bardem's daughter. This happens once more after mother dies, as Him's next wife seems to be even younger than mother.
  • Meaningful Appearance: We are introduced to mother in a sheer white nightgown and, in keeping with the "innocence" version of wearing white, no shoes. She changes her wardrobe during the film but always keeps to neutral white and gray clothing, in contrast to the Woman's sophisticated outfits and racy underwear — notably she has no black clothes to wear to the Younger Brother's wake.
  • Meaningful Name: Him is the only character with a capitalized name.
  • Men Act, Women Are: Him and mother, for most of the movie. him writes the Bible, while the mother until she goes absolutely nuts.
  • Messianic Archetype: There are two. The baby that mother conceives with Him is an obvious stand in for Christ coming down from his birth to his killing and subsequent cannibalization by Him's followers . Mother can be seen as a representation of many different aspects such as Mother Nature, the Virgin Mary, and later a Satanic Archetype. The film makes a point in how mother continually gives and gives, culminating in her willingly giving her heart to Him so that he could start again. She is even carried by Him in a fashion similar to how the Virgin Mary is said to have held Jesus when he was removed from the cross.
  • Mind Screw: It's a Darren Aronofsky film. The trailer doesn't tell you anything about the plot. Even the promotional posters look vague, such as the posters of Jennifer Lawrence holding a bloody heart which seems to be cut out from her chest and Javier Bardem holding an orb with an image of a baby while sitting in the flames of screaming faces.
  • Mineral Macguffin: The jewel in Him's study, which Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer's characters accidentally break to Him's consternation. It is later implied to be the heart of the woman he was with before mother, as mother's own heart is ripped out and turned into one as well.
  • Muse Abuse: Him's publisher refers to mother as Him's "inspiration". His Writer's Block comes to an end after they make love, and from what little we see, his new poem is directly inspired by his relationship with her and her role in bringing the house and its surroundings back to life. This doesn't stop Him from consistently treating her as, essentially, the least important person in his life — prioritizing her after his publisher, the press and any random stranger who says they admire his work. This eventually has consequences.

  • Nameless Narrative: The names of the characters were never mentioned in the movie. The credits listed Lawrence's and Bardem's character as "mother" and "Him" respectively. (Note that Bardem's character is the only name that is capitalized in the credits.) Everyone else gets a generic title in the credits relating to their role in the story; Ed Harris is "man", Michelle Pfeiffer is "woman", the Gleason brothers are "oldest son" and "youngest brother". Some of the names hint at the religious allegory; for instance Kristen Wiig, who is introduced as Him's publisher, is credited as "herald".
  • Neck Snap: What happens to mother's baby when he's being passed around by the crowd.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: During the outbreak of warfare inside the house a handful of people — including one of the invading soldiers and a civilian woman literally credited as "Good Samaritan" — take pity on mother and try to help her, only to be brutally killed by the others as soon as they take their attention from the battle.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: The Oldest Son , a.k.a. the murderer, Cain, comes back to the house to retrieve his wallet to find a terrified mother. Rather than attack her, he bemusedly asks, "They left you here all alone?... So you do understand", then leaves peacefully. Foreshadows the ending in which the mother, in a rage over the murder of her child and the indifference of Him, kills all of Him's fans and herself.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Mother is eventually driven to this.
  • One Drink Will Kill the Baby: Whatever is in the tonic that mother has been drinking to settle her nerves, she pours it down the toilet once she gets pregnant.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: As the night wears on the Younger Brother's wake rapidly devolves into an opportunity for the drunken guests to hook up anywhere they can find a private (or not-so-private) spot. Mother is not pleased. Foreshadows things getting a lot worse in the second act when Him's autograph signing devolves into a literal mass orgy, women thrown in a cage to be raped, etc.
  • Plot Parallel: At the same moment mother realizes she's pregnant after she and Him have sex, Him is struck by inspiration and feverishly begins writing. After the Time Skip, mother is almost due to give birth just as Him has completed his manuscript and submitted it to his publisher. A reference to the Christian doctrine that Jesus is the "living Word of God" just as the Bible is the "written Word of God."
  • Potty Failure: One of mother's escalating humiliations is dealing with a little boy having an "accident" on her floor while waiting for autographs.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    mother: (to Him) You won't even fuck me.
    This time, you get the fuck out of my house!
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: Mother is barefoot for the entire film. Even when the Woman criticizes her for being under-dressed at a social event, she changes clothes but never puts shoes on. Doubles as Earthy Barefoot Character.
  • Protect This House: Subverted. Despite this being his traditional role as a man, and despite mother's repeated pleading, Him not only fails but refuses to do this.
  • Quick Nip: When we meet Man he's constantly smoking and drinking from his trusty hip flask. Implied to partly be to relieve the pain from his unnamed terminal health condition (and possibly to have contributed to it).
  • Rapid-Fire "No!": Him to mother right after she flicks on his lighter and right before she drops it next to the punctured basement oil tank, creating an inferno that obliterates the house.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Mother to Him, just before the end.
    "I gave you everything! You gave it all away."
    • And of course, the aforementioned Make Me Wanna Shout scene afterwards has mother furiously call everyone (including Him) monsters.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Played with and lampshaded. mother (and the audience) has no inkling Woman exists before she suddenly shows up on her doorstep. Him gives her no warning even though Man spent the previous night telling Him his whole life story. (mother asks Him, "Did you know he had a wife?" but receives no answer.) Man even greets Woman with a joking "Nice to meet you!" before grabbing her for an uncomfortably long kiss. References Woman's allegorical identity as Eve, who was literally created in a single day to be Adam's wife at this point in the biblical narrative.
    • Continues to be played with in the film with the absurd number of friends and family who show up for Younger Brother's wake, with mother (and likewise us) consistently kept in the dark about who exactly they are or where they came from.
    • mother herself, as the surreal opening of the movie seems to show Him summoning the house and his wife into existence from a burnt-out husk, with mother waking up already looking for her husband. The first half of the movie ignores this opening, with Him speaking to Man of his marriage to mother and the "months" of work she's done on the house as though we didn't see them both come into existence that morning. This is explained by the ending.
  • Renaissance Man:
    • Implied to be the case with Man, who is a doctor and scientist but also a huge fan of Him and his books, and loves talking to him about them.
    • Him is a book-smart poet with an impressively well-stocked study, but also loves his long nature hikes and learning about Man's scientific research — indeed, he finds something he enjoys learning about from everyone he talks to. Unfortunately, the one topic he has no interest in, domestic matters and the upkeep of the house, is the one topic mother cares most about.
  • Replacement Goldfish: After Him magically regenerates the house using the crystal he harvested from mother's heart, mother's corpse regenerates into a very similar (but not identical) young woman, named "Maiden" in the credits. Also, mother herself is implied to be a Replacement Goldfish for her predecessor, credited as "Foremother", seen briefly at the beginning of the film.
  • Reusable Lighter Toss: Mother does this with a Zippo lighter she took from Man, tossing it near an oil tank. This causes the massive explosion that ends up killing everyone but Him.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Many viewers have raised the question of what, exactly, is in the poem Him writes that everyone likes so much. Obviously trying to portray a life- and world-altering written work on film is a pretty justifiable case of Take Our Word for It, and portraying his manuscript as a single page handwritten on parchment (that gets somehow published as a normal-sized paperback) is an obvious case of intentional surrealism. Speculation still abounds, though, including Moviebob devoting a page to theories about it.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Mother stabs several people and then burns down her house and everybody in it in revenge for them killing and eating her newborn son.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • The film and its characters are pretty explicitly meant to be allegories of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Him and mother are God and Mother Nature respectively, while all of the people who Him keeps inviting into the house and trashing the place are meant to represent humans.
    • Mother may also represent Sophia, a personification of Wisdom and a female aspect of God that's been present in Judeo-Christian literature since the Old Testament, and who appears as a feminine counterpart to the Demiurge in Gnosticism. She is also at one point a stand-in for the Virgin Mary.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Him seems to invoke this concept, feeling obligated to offer room and board to strangers simply because they are far from home and "they have nowhere to go." mother adopts the much more common sense (by modern standards) view that other people's unwise choices give them no claim on her property, especially since, under the laws of hospitality, they abandon their reciprocal obligations as guests almost immediately.
  • Sanity Slippage: Mother endures this as the film progresses, and finally when her baby was cannibalized and Him trying to make her forgive them.
  • Satanic Archetype:
    • Mother becomes one towards the end. Upon seeing more and more people arrive at the house, she becomes increasingly angered with Him for allowing these people into their house, which culminates in her burning the house down in an apocalyptic-style event. She also talks to Woman about the crystallized object that Him keeps in his study, which can be interpreted as the Serpent tempting Eve with the Forbidden Fruit. Her heart becoming blackened towards the end can also be taken as her ultimate fall from grace.
    • Besides mother, Him can also be seen as one. He craves worship and is utterly unconcerned as to how he can acquire it. Additionally as pointed out in this video, Him could be a reference to the Demiurge, a false god who created the physical world, but is not the true creator.
    • mother meets a man in the house during one of her husband's large gatherings, and he offered her the chance to leave Him, but she refuses.
  • Scenery Censor: Him in his study when writing in the nude.
  • Screaming Birth: So much so that the whole screen whites out, followed by eerie silence.
  • Serious Business: The fandom around Him's poetry. Inspires pilgrimages, looting of relics and eventually a literal war. Justified, as the poet represents God and his writing the Bible.
  • Sexless Marriage: Him and mother at the beginning of the film. Mother refuses to acknowledge it openly until after the Woman picks up on it and humiliates her over it. Very much averted by Man and Woman despite their age compared to Him and mother, a fact Woman gleefully holds over mother's head.
  • Sex Slave: A notable element of the house's sudden, surreal descent into madness and atrocity is a man who begins dragging women into a literal cage to be held as property while mother is helpless to intervene.
  • Shaming the Mob: Mother tearfully begs Him to do this with their guests, as Him is the only person they'll listen to. He refuses. She tries to do it herself after they kill her son. It goes poorly.
  • Smells Sexy: Mother's opinion of Him after a long, sweaty day outside. The fact that he brushes her off and goes straight to take a shower is our first hint not all is well in their marriage.
  • Spiritual Successor: This movie, like Aronofsky's previous film Noah, is an adaptation of the Book of Genesis, albeit an allegorical adaptation rather than a literal one. The themes are also similar — focusing on humanity's depravity and abuse of the natural world — although this time the outlook begins quite positive and gets bleaker while Noah went in the opposite direction.
  • Stalker Without A Crush: The one way in which Him's legion of stalkers are not obsessed with Him is sexually/romantically. Him is completely sexually faithful to mother; the fact that his interest in the others is purely intellectual/spiritual doesn't actually make it any better.
  • Straw Misogynist: When the mob turns on mother they immediately start in with random sexualized, misogynistic insults that have nothing to do with the situation (like "cocktease").
  • Surreal Horror: Given who's directing it this is to be expected.

  • Take That!: The entire film is essentially a scathing criticism of Christianity, and organized religion in general. It can also be seen as a vicious satire of how humans have treated the environment. Society's treatment of women and the feminine aspects of the divine in general are also put on display.
  • Taking Advantage of Generosity: What the strangers barging into Him and mother 's house do, based on Him's rationale that everyone is welcome to their house, ultimately leading to the tragic conclusion.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Played for Drama. First man and woman...then literally everybody in the house.
  • Through His Stomach: Mother prepares a lavish feast for Him — while nine months pregnant — to celebrate the success of his new book. Him expresses his awe at her effort, and we're treated to a lingering view of the spread, but then Him's guests arrive, and he unhesitatingly lets them treat it like a convenient buffet. (This is essentially the whole movie in microcosm.)
  • Too Dumb to Live: Literally everybody in the movie keeps pushing mother, and pushing, and pushing...
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: mother and her baby both appear to be this, before it's inverted and revealed that one of the actual main messages is that the earth is too good for its horrible inhabitants.
  • Torn Apart by the Mob: Him gives his and mother's baby over to the mob against her wishes. As they pass him around increasingly roughly, his neck snaps. As mother desperately tries to reach them, they rip the baby's dead body apart, start eating him, and passing the pieces around.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Him has a crystal orb in his study which is the only thing left after a fire burned down his house and his first wife in the past.
  • Twisted Eucharist: By the end of the film, the visitors to the house are all eating from the same flesh sacrificed for them by a religious authority, calling to mind the sacrament of the Eucharist and humanity's role in killing Jesus with our evil. The "evil" part is made clearer considering the flesh being sacrificed is from the author's son, who has his neck snapped and his corpse dismembered.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: EVERYONE to mother. Him at least attempts to act like he appreciates her, unlike his guests — but this might just make it worse.
  • Unwanted False Faith: A variation. Him loves being adored by the crowd, but when that adoration somehow turns into war, slavery, mass murder and killing and eating his own son Him appears to be just as horrified as mother is... but not, apparently, horrified enough to lift a finger to stop it, or even to tell them to stop doing it. (Quite likely a Take That! to the Christian God who, in some versions of Christian belief, fell silent after giving the Bible to mankind, doing nothing to stop the subsequent false doctrines and resulting atrocities.)
  • Vicious Cycle: Considering the beginning of the film focuses with a precursor to mother doing the same thing that she did, the titular mother, and then Him's new wife after restarting everything, chances are the entire film can be seen as a never-ending cycle where "mother" endures hell, gives birth, and eventually destroys everything only for Him to repeat it again.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Mother's offspring is gutted and devoured by the hordes of strangers in the house.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: To the Bible, both New and Old Testaments.
    • Him is the God Yahweh, and mother is Anthropomorphic Personification Mother Nature. Their house is Earth/the Garden of Eden, which mother declared at the beginning of the film would be made into a Paradise.
    • Man and Woman are Adam and Eve, the first two people to intrude into the house, and their two sons are Cain and Abel (one son ends up killing the other one).
    • Man and Woman break Him's crystal, and like the episode of the forbidden fruit, are ejected out of the House for it.
    • Mother breaks the House's plumbing and ejects the increasing crowds of people in her house with a flood of water—much like Noah's flood.
    • Mother's Baby is Jesus, who is literally cannibalized as a morbid reflection of the Eucharist and the Crucifixion.
    • Mother ends by destroying the House with in a torrent of fire, much like the Apocalypse will destroy the world.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: mother is the physical embodiment of the Earth itself as well as the dutiful wife — and muse — of Him. Throughout the film, mother's sanity began to unravel when Him carelessly allows several people to invade the house to sate his ego. Upon becoming pregnant, waves of Him's rabid followers infiltrate the house, indulging in several degeneracies such as mass murder, slavery, and war. Despite tensions softening after mother gave birth, Him pries her son from her and presents him to the crowd. Being forced to helplessly watch her son get ripped apart and eaten by the hordes, mother tries to kill several of Him's followers only to be overpowered and stripped and beaten relentlessly. Even though she succeeds at wiping out the crowds by setting the house ablaze, the ending reveals mother was one of the many incarnations of Mother Nature, meaning she was condemned to suffer endlessly due to the cyclical nature of creation versus destruction.
  • Writers Suck: Him's profession is as a poet, and his narcissism, hunger for praise and casual neglect of his marriage all seem to be tied to his art. May double as Self-Deprecation on Darren Aronofsky's part, especially considering he was dating the actress who plays mother in Real Life around the time of the film's production and release.