Alexis Ibarra Ibarra
Netflix’ Bird Box was an immensely popular and controversial movie back when it was released (2018-2019). A lot of people thought it was slow-paced, monotonous, boring, and did not really make any sense. Back then, The Cake | us vs reality was not a reality yet, so, when I watched this film for the first time and felt that I needed to share my own interpretation with the world, I could only write a long post on Facebook about it. I recently watched the movie again, and I remembered that post. So, I looked it up and analyzed it; I still think my interpretation is solid.
Spoilers from this point about Gravity (2013) and Bird Box (2018).
Before I start, I just want to mention that Sandra Bullock was going through a phase of working in allegorical and metaphorical projects such like Gravity (2013), a movie that could be pretty dull and illogical if you do not know that is about her trying to face the reality of losing her daughter.
I researched a little bit and realized that some critics hinted to some of my ideas; however, they did not develop or understand the topic the same way I did. The most similar interpretations to mine implied that the movie was about the struggles of motherhood; however, from what I read, I think they took the scene where Malorie “had her baby” too literally.
While researching, I found one review that really caught my eye: Tallerico catalogued the movie as entertaining to watch but filled with “undercooked metaphors about motherhood.”
“Undercooked”? Sorry… WHAT?
For me, the whole movie is a giant and robust allegory about, yes, motherhood but, more precisely, about the road of the protagonist, Malorie, to accept that she was not only going to have a baby but TWO. I think Malorie did not have her babies until the end of the movie, and that is why she meets the doctor in the end.
Here is my interpretation:
The protagonist is a character with a messy life running away from the fact that she is going to have a baby. As we can see at the beginning of Bird Box, it is clear that Malorie is a free spirit: an artist that was not planning to have a baby but rather wants to live by herself without worrying about responsibilities. Malorie is in denial about her pregnancy and gets lectured by both her sister and her doctor about having to face the fact that she is going to deliver a baby.
The allegory starts with the metaphor presented through the news channel: a “Monster”, was making people kill themselves in Russia. Malorie tried to ignore this and says it has nothing to do with her because the problem is so far away (a couple of months away, in any case). People that kill themselves represent the ones that abandon their projects, plans and lifestyles to have kids.
After that, she continues by saying that she does not want to go to the doctor, who later lectures her about having to face the fact that she will deliver a child. Right after that, the “Monster” arrives at her city. Pretty coincidental, right? She is scared about the “Monster”, which is, in my opinion, her unborn baby: the child she does not want to have.
“Here comes the Monster” means “here comes your baby.”
Her sister “killed herself” when Malorie starts separating from the world and her loved ones. Malorie isolates herself because she is being unable to face reality; she closes her eyes and covers them because she does not want to see the truth. She ends up living with strangers in a house she does not know, which represent how alien she feels to her own existence.
All of the characters in that house embodies each one of the feelings the heroine needs to resolve: paranoia and selfishness (the bald guy), the kindness that wants to look at the truth but cannot manage to do it (the Asian guy that owns the house), love and care for her child (the pregnant lady), the need to protect (the old lady), spontaneous religiousness (the guy that works at the grocery store), the desire to run away (the policewoman and the junkie), and the wish to look at the bright side of life even if the world is awful (Tom, the boyfriend that dies protecting her and the main thing pushing her forward). Besides, the heroine probably has complications during her pregnancy as well, which is why she has to fight for the survival to protect the life she is carrying inside her.
Now, why do I say that she was having twins? Well, into the scene comes the other pregnant lady, the one that asks her to take care of her girl in case she dies (and she does, of course). That woman is the personification of everything good and kind about motherhood, and, even if Malorie is scared, this lady helps her to start to grow as a person and begin her process of acceptance.
Moreover, she sees people that try to show her the truth, which they say is beautiful, as crazy and terrifying. They might be people who are trying to convince her that parenthood is incredible, but, since she was terrified and did not want to have a baby, she sees them as psychos that are forcing her to raise her unwanted children. The other pregnant lady (Malorie’s process to accept motherhood) dies because people keep putting pressure on her to make her love her babies and because having twins is just too much. She sees the girl as someone else’s daughter because she cannot even process that she is having a boy, so the girl is just as her own inconceivable for her. Therefore, she does not give any names to the “babies” and keeps calling them “boy” and “girl”, as she feels completely detached from them.
Her relationship with Tom is a symbol of Malorie beginning to see goodness in life and reaching for her loved ones. The protagonist gets upset when he tells her that those kids, still in her womb, deserve a mother and a name. She tries to keep looking at the bright side, but once again, her fears prevent her from seeing beauty in life and trusting her loved ones, so she runs away, leaving Tom to die. RIP Tom.
Finally, water represents life: the river, sometimes calm, sometimes fast and violent, is her experience while going through labor (the birth canal). Everything is scary for her, she is anxious, she does not know what to do, but she can only follow the river. In the final stage, she goes into the rapids, something she cannot control nor stop. She takes a leap of faith, recognizing both “boy” and “girl” as her children and not making them look where to turn, leaving none of them to be sacrificed (maybe she is considering giving one baby into adoption). She just embraces them and expects the best.
After some uncertainty and panic, she arrives at the compound. That is the moment when she finally gives birth to her two healthy and beautiful babies, which is the reason why she finds the doctor at the end of the path. As she looks at them as real beings for the first time, Malorie names her kids “Olivia” and “Tom”. “Oliva” that represents love and motherhood; “Tom” that represents happiness and all the good things in life. She learns a new way to see the beauty of the world (“the way blind people look at the world”). Even if the heroine is still filled with uncertainty, everything is all right: she can trust in people again, and, more importantly, now that the protagonist has her babies, she can start to recognize and love them as her own.
What is the Bird Box then?
The Birds are obviously Malorie and her children. The three of them live in a cage, a box of fear, until the babies are born: the moment when they spread their wings, liberate themselves, and started flying free to make friends and enjoy life.
Did you watch Bird Box (2018)? What did you think about it? Do you agree with my interpretation? ❤ What is your interpretation about this movie? Please share a slice of your opinion in the comment section below! The Cake is always thrilled to read about your thoughts!
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Featured image taken from Wikipedia.