It is human nature to obsess. Our obsessions distinguish us, drive us, destroy us. Countless stories have been told about the subject of obsession and its pernicious nature, depicting humans as manic creatures who will sacrifice their well being and relationships in the name of the all-consuming fixations that govern their lives. Perhaps most famous are the stories told by Darren Aronofsky, whose body of work centers around the passions that can so easily bloom into raging obsessions. From his sophomore effort “Requiem for a Dream” about the perils of drug addiction to the ballet thriller “Black Swan,” Aronofsky has been building narratives around the journey of a crazed protagonist toward that unattainable goal. His latest film “mother!” aims to deconstruct this theme of obsession by depicting in vivid detail just how catastrophic it can be when an innocent is caught in the crossfire between the obsessed and their point of fixation.

A young housewife (Jennifer Lawrence) and her much older husband (Javier Bardem) live in an enormous house in a picturesque clearing. She spends her days renovating the house, which has become her greatest love, while he struggles with his writing. Their life of domestic tranquility is suddenly upturned when a doctor (Ed Harris) comes to the door and is invited to stay the night by the husband. He is soon joined by his presumptuous wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), who rudely interrogates her female host about her perceived reluctance to have children, and their bickering sons (brothers Brian and Domhnall Gleeson). The housewife is overwhelmed by her guests’ mistreatment of her and eventually persuades her husband to evict them, after which they conceive a child. But when his latest poem becomes a universal success, she must again cope with her house being filled with cruel strangers whose obsession with her husband’s work prompts them to singlehandedly destroy everything she holds dear.

Billed extravagantly as an unforgettable thriller—complete with taglines that are lifted from sixties’ shock-horror films—“mother!” is in fact a numbingly long and hollow allegory that seems less interested in the cerebral aspects of obsession and more committed to exploring the visceral evils of obsession and abuse. “mother!” is fundamentally a long-form metaphor about the Bible, the environment and altruism, any of which could have served as the core of an intriguing story. Aronofsky’s decision to explore all of these topics, as well as a motherhood subplot that borrows heavily from “Rosemary’s Baby,” causes the film to feel overwhelmingly schizophrenic. The symbolism is glaringly obvious, but it is draped in so much superfluous imagery and stiff dialogue that the film becomes almost impossible to decipher and enjoy. There are moments where Aronofsky’s vision is clear—a broken sink mirroring the flood from Genesis, a yonic hole in the nursery floor—but they are bookended by delirious, deranged scenes that do little in the way of entertaining or informing the audience.

Even though “mother!” is more concerned with ham-fisted references to Christ than delivering scares, it is still a profoundly disturbing movie that does not earn its stomach-churning scenes. One moment in particular is so devastatingly, needlessly heinous that it begs the question of whether this film should have been made at all. The film’s liberal use of blood, violence and bare flesh feels absurdly gratuitous, especially a later scene where Lawrence is kicked to the ground and called misogynist names for an entire minute. It turns what should have been a thought-provoking commentary on the abuse of the environment into a nauseating bombardment of unpleasant imagery.

“mother!” may be difficult to watch, but the care invested into crafting each scene and a surprisingly strong performance by Lawrence rescues it from total failure. The sound design is spectacularly immersive; most of the visuals, like a lightbulb filling with blood, are richly realized and effective. Lawrence, whose praise until now has been mostly undeserved, manages to convey her helplessness without resorting to chewing the scenery. Her performance in the movie’s final half-hour primarily consists of screaming as the nightmarish situation crescendos into a fiery finale, but Lawrence makes every shriek just as chilling as her first.

Aronofsky’s work has been the subject of controversy ever since “Requiem for a Dream” and it seems that “mother!” has already attracted its fair share of criticism for its frankly abhorrent content. His exploration of obsession has served him well in the past, but his habit of layering his films in subtext and symbolism has proved to be its own form of obsession, one that completely obviates whatever statement “mother!” might have been trying to make. Do not be blindsided by Aronofsky’s smug remarks about “dream logic” and his own genius—“mother!” is less of a brilliant Biblical allegory and more of an interminable, sickening sermon led by a man who is little too obsessed with himself.