As it turns out, there are things in this world even more upsetting than a baby getting eaten. Beyond any metaphorical readings, what makes Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” inarguably effective as a piece of shock cinema is that he rendered it entirely through the perspective of the titular Jennifer Lawrence-played character. For the most part, that single-mindedness is “mother!'”s greatest strength, eliciting inescapable empathy for Mother’s plight regardless of whether one finds said plight to be tasteful or interesting in design. It also makes the film’s strongest argument against accusations of fetishization of female suffering — no matter how dire things get, we’re always with Mother, taking in the world’s horror alongside her, instead of watching from afar as she endures it. But when Mother is thrown to the ground, beaten, and verbally abused during the climax, it suddenly gets much harder to defend the film’s gender politics.
Unlike the preceding 110 minutes, which got at genuine points about patriarchal society by methodically cataloging various iterations of disempowerment, gaslighting, and dehumanization, that scene makes no real point. Not only that, but, if we previously felt the violence committed against Mother because it was psychological and moral in nature, the escalation to physical violence renders the first-person POV moot as an empathetic device, because we don’t actually feel the pain Mother feels. Her pain, in that moment, becomes completely abstract, a kitschy sensory simulacrum of oppression — and in that way, yes, blithely consumable.