Recently, a Slate staffer who has not seen Mother! (officially styled mother!) noted that if you don’t see the Darren Aronofsky film but do overhear conversations about it, you start to accumulate a really strange set of details in your head. So, we asked two writers who haven’t seen Mother! to describe the plot of Mother!
Spoilers (?) follow.
Andrew Kahn: I’ve read Dana’s review, so most of what I know comes from Dana’s review.
Rebecca Onion: I’ve read that and heard a podcast, and read one other thing, and seen a bunch of tweets without clicking on their links. So, let’s go.
It is … about a woman … who is in a house.
Kahn: Not only is it about a woman, it is also about womanhood. woman!
Onion: It is about the Eternal Female and the Eternal Male, the battle between the earth and technology. Or something.
Kahn: Earth (stylized earth!).
Onion: Ugh. It’s like this book, right, but in Darren Aronofsky movie form? And there is a baby eaten????
Kahn: There is a baby eaten. I think that may be the big twist. I think a group of people eat a baby.
Onion: We are spoiling and we haven’t seen it!!!!
Kahn: I’m not sure if it’s the spoiler.
Onion: Is it like The Road, a baby on a spit? Is it Ed Harris eating it?
Kahn: You just spoiled The Road for me. So—the plot of mother! (?). It is ... full of spoilers. It is very easily spoiled! This is a movie that is like milk (the liquid, not the movie).
Onion: OK, go on.
Kahn: Well, I think we know the allegorical stakes. And we know the twist. We just have to fill in the middle. I heard the second half “takes a turn.”
Onion: Wait, a different turn from the baby? The baby is at the end.
Kahn: I’m assuming the baby is at the end. I don’t know how you could follow the baby.
Onion: So the beginning is a creepy marriage thing. Javier Bardem is old.
Kahn: Yes. He is old.
Onion: J-Law is young.
Kahn: J-Law is young and probably acting poorly. I believe her to be a poor actor.
Onion: Javier is soooooo ancient, a poet.
Kahn: A moody poet. So there’s a wife and her poet—and “a stranger comes to town.”
Kahn: Ed Harris. He won’t leave.
Onion: He is gaunt and old. Older than Javier!
Kahn: He stays too long. He stays and stays.
Onion: Suddenly he invites Michelle Pfeiffer in?
Kahn: He must be … a source of power for the poet. The poet is making him stay. However, the poet also has a gemstone.
Onion: J-Law is initially timid and wary and then decides she doesn’t like him.
Kahn: The poet has various dependencies (Ed Harris, diamond).
Onion: Meanwhile, J-Law is drinking yellow potions in tumblers.
Kahn: And we don’t learn the meaning of the potions—ever? Maybe at the end.
Onion: No. Never. That is one thing people have commented upon.
Kahn: OK, we never learn the meaning of the potions.
Onion: Never. Nor a number of other … motifs. They remain mysterious.
Kahn: So. 1. Creepy marriage. 2. Creepy guests. And J-Law is doing a lot to improve the house? She’s a housewife. A house-wife.
Onion: She is padding about on a wooden floor.
Kahn: She’s a very housey person.
Onion: She is hanging tapestries.
Kahn: She spackles the walls. I assume she adjusts paintings at some point?
Onion: I think so.
Kahn: Is it modern? Does it have a time period? I imagine J-Law in Housemaids Tale [sic] get-up.
Kahn: I also haven’t seen Housemaids Tale [sic], so they fuse in my mind.
Onion: So. What happens?????? There are two brothers. They are Cain and Abel, maybe.
Kahn: Oh, I hadn’t heard about that.
Onion: Cain and Abel!!! The brothers fight. One kills another. They have to hide the body.
Kahn: Cain and Abel.
Onion: Yeah, it’s allegory, like East of Eden.
Kahn: Well, at some point the walls start bleeding. I assume the hiding of the body CAUSES THIS.
Onion: Oh, yeah.
Kahn: Like “Telltale Heart”–style. In the basement.
Onion: The house cannot hold the crime to itself. The house explodes in guilt.
Kahn: How do the brothers relate to Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer? Are they additional guests?
Onion: They are their kids!!!!
Kahn: Oh, and the brothers are real-life brothers.
Onion: Ed is … Adam, and Michelle is Eve???
Kahn: The parents must be upset, their kids died.
Onion: I think they don’t care. They are Bad. ... Is there anything else to say about Mother?
Kahn: We eventually find out about the gemstone, I believe, at the very end.
Onion: There is a reveal? For that at least, if not the tonics.
Kahn: I think there’s a reveal. And—the baby is eaten by a crowd, so at some point a crowd must be attracted to the abode. I would guess a cult.
Kahn: I think it is like Rosemary’s Baby.
Onion: Is it J-Law’s baby??? (Same as Rosemary.)
Kahn: I assume it is J-Law’s baby, as J-Law’s character is named “mother(!).”
Onion: Oh, poor J-Law then.
Kahn: Who impregnates her? Javier? Maybe somebody else. Maybe a potion.
Onion: Ed Harris, my money’s on.
Kahn: He seems like a pregnator.
Onion: He sure does. Very vital.
Onion: Are you going to see it?
Kahn: I think I will see it? Who cares. Idk.
Onion: I don’t think I’ll see it. I don’t want to see the baby go.
Kahn: I will see it if I am assured that J-Law doesn’t do a New Jersey accent, like in American Hustle.
More from Slate: