The Battle of Symbols: Two American Movies

A Mother’s Home – Jennifer Lawrence – Mother

The ideas of Darren Aronofsky and Taylor Sheridan are on display with the recent release of Sheridan’s Wind River (see our review) and Aronofsky’s Mother (see our review). Both could not be much different as filmmakers and the films Wind River and Mother are evidence of this. Aronofsky has received acclaim, and generated controversy, for his often surreal, disturbing films. Aronofsky’s films focus inward exploring psychology while Sheridan’s films explore the outward grittiness of the western landscapes of post modern America.

The grittiness of the outside world in Sheridan’s Wind River plays against the internal world of Aronofsky’s Mother. Wind River is a homage to the natural world and at the same time a powerful statement about the condition of native Americans on reservations today. Mother takes place within the confines of a single house. To make it even more personal and subjective, Aronofsky decided to shoot it with just a few handheld 16 mm cameras.

Perhaps no film in recent memory has received the such bad marks from audiences as Mother. The audience on Rotten Tomato (RT) gives the film a 44% rating and receives a (rare) CinemaScore rating of F. At the same time, the film receives a respectable rating from most critics including a 68% on Rotten Tomatoes as well as a good reviews from influential critics like the NY Times’ AO Scott. The one “fly-in-the-ointment” of critics is the scathing review of legendary film critic Rex Reed who calls it the worst film of the century.

A Trapper’s Prey – Jeremy Renner – Wind River

Both films are from director/writers who represent two sides of the modern American film spectrum. On one end of the spectrum is Mother. On the other side is the post-modern cowboy genre Wind River. Mother refers back to such early internal psychological thrillers like Repulsion while Wind River refers to modern cowboy/detective films with other films by Sheridan such as Hell Or High Water and  Fargo and No Country for Old Men and the gritty writing of Larry McMurty (who Sheridan greatly admires). In this way of landscapes and spaces the two films could not be more different. Aronofsky goes inward and Sheridan outward.

These two grand landscapes correspond to the other symbols. In Mother, the internal Feminine archetype dominates. In Wind River, the external Masculine archetype dominates. The film symbols find relationship to popular culture in the perpetual battle between equality and freedom. The symbols also relate to political battles being fought today. But, we’ll discuss this in our next post on Mother.


Rotten Tomatos on Mother.

Rotten Tomatos on Wind River

Rex Reed’s Review of Mother

AO Scott’s Review in the NY Times of Mother.

Paramount Defends Mother


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