Mother! is, for all intents and purposes, a bit of a Rorschach test. Every audience member comes out of Darren Aronofsky's new psychological thriller with a different analysis on what the movie is really about. There are, however, a few agreed upon theories as to the meaning of the film, specifically concerning the question of what Jennifer Lawrence represents in Mother!. When it comes to the Oscar-winner's starring role, there seems to be two main schools of thought on what her character represents: Mother Earth or Women.
Spoilers ahead! Lawrence's character has no name in Mother! — none of the characters do. Instead, she is known as Mother, though she isn't yet a mother herself. Instead of a baby, she has a house that she has single-handedly remodeled and transformed into a home for her and her husband, Him (Javier Bardem). As a literal homemaker, Mother is like Mother Earth. She has created a home for her husband and their various (and strange) guests, and the home itself appears to her as alive. It breathes, has a heartbeat, and it even bleeds. Much like the Earth itself, Mother's home is a living extension of herself. And this was very much by design. "I wanted to make a film about Mother Nature," Aronofsky said in an interview with Variety. "So we're working on an allegorical level, where it's dealing with these big symbols."
Lawrence herself has also stated that she plays a version of Mother Nature or Mother Earth in the film, pointing to specific character attributes she drew form the allegory. For example, the actor focused on the idea that the house in the film was an extension of her character, telling the audience at the Toronto International Film Festival, via PopSugar, "I found the biggest tool for me was the connection, the idea that the house and I were the same organism." This connection also inspired some small, practical details of the character. Mother remains barefoot throughout the film, a nod to her connection with nature and her physical surroundings. "It never would have been right for my character to wear shoes. Nature is her creation," Lawrence said at the Venice Film Festival, via The Hollywood Reporter.
In the film, Mother is constantly giving to those around her, to her own detriment, a pattern Aronofsky added was inspired by the "endless consumption" of humanity on Earth. But despite the many parallels between Mother and Mother Nature, Lawrence's character in Mother! doesn't just represent the Earth, she also represents the suffocating reality of being a woman in our patriarchal world. Throughout the film, mother is submissive to the point of self-harm. Her devotion to her husband is endless, and she caters to his dreams of being a writer more than any of her own desires.
It's a classic portrait of what a woman and a wife were expected to be for centuries. When asked whether or not the film was feminist, Lawrence compared the movie to novels like Jane Eyre, which explored the unequal power dynamic between men and women. "To me, this is incredibly feminist in the way that these Victorian, patriarchal novels show these loving, amazing husbands that are very slowly and delicately taking away their wives' dignity," Lawrence said in an interview with Variety.
Mother! is about Mother Nature, but it's also about the unrealistic expectations we place on mothers in our everyday life. Like the Earth, mothers are expected to be giving, to be kind, to take care of us all without thought for herself. It's a stifling image of what women should be that, in the end, doesn't really help anybody. Just as taking endless advantage of the Earth and her resources is detrimental to us all. Knowing what Mother! is about, hopefully audiences will take away a lesson that we need to be kinder, both to our mothers and to our planet.