PUSH IT to one side if you can. It is almost time for Darren Aronofsky’s return to the director’s chair. Mother – out in cinemas this Friday –is already being cited as a fierce return to form for the director after his disappointing biblical tale Noah in 2014.
As we wait for the release of Mother, it feels appropriate to revisit Aronofsky’s gritty 2008 film The Wrestler. Mickey Rourke, giving a career-best performance, plays broke and beaten-down wrestler Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson. Still living off his 80’s fame, Randy struggles to make a living wrestling in front of small crowds until a life-threatening injury forces him to look at life beyond the ring.
Part of this journey to reconnect with the ‘real’ world sees Randy contact his estranged daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood). After initial trepidation and reluctance, Stephanie agrees to spend some time with Randy at the boardwalk – a place they used to go when she was a child.
As the two sit down to chat, Aronofsky’s camera locks in on a close-up of Randy’s face. This close-up is particularly striking given that the camera spends most of the film tracking behind Randy, as though he is always performing his ring entrance or on show. We are finally confronted by his weary and, now, tearful face. It is a humanising moment for this muscled-up, bleached-haired and spandex-wearing figure.
Tenderly delivered by Rourke and, despite not saying a word during the scene, beautifully emoted by Wood, you can feel the tearing anguish in both father and daughter. Randy’s regret has finally surfaced at this low point in his life. He admits: ‘I left you. You never did anything wrong.’
For Stephanie this interaction – and admission of guilt from her father – is a moment of painful relief. Her absent father has finally taken the first big step in the long road to heal their relationship.
Aronofsky adds no music to the scene. We are instead left with Randy’s words and Stephanie’s hair flickering in the wind. The setting – outside by the water – brings a naturalism to the scene that contrasts to the wrestling and strip club we have inhabited earlier in the film.
As a result, we witness a raw and touching scene between two damaged individuals. One to remind us of Aronofsky’s powers as a filmmaker ahead of this week’s release of Mother.
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