Directed by Susanne Bier, Bird Box (2018) presents an apocalyptic world in which just the act of seeing the monsters will drive a person to suicide. Blindfolded, a woman takes her two children on an impossible journey downriver to what she hopes will be salvation.
Having read the novel by Josh Malerman a year or so ago, I can say that the movie seems to be a fairly faithful adaptation — presenting a solid thriller with in interesting world building premise. Making the monsters something you can’t even look at is a great way to build tension.
However, I think the most interesting part of this movie is how it addresses motherhood, with Malorie (played by Sandra Bullock) being less than excited about her pregnancy. When the children arrive, she is not the warm, gentle presence normally portrayed by movie mothers. She’s harsh, hard, and bent on survival — to the point that she doesn’t even give the children proper names. Her behavior draws into question the thin line between hard love and abuse. The fact that Malorie mentions her father having been abusive makes this especially interesting. How much of her behavior is her repeating her own past and how much is due to the world in which she now lives?
By contrast, Tom (played by Trevante Rhodes), having become a father figure as a result of the circumstances of this apocalypse, provides the children with the compassion and kindness denied by Malorie. He offers the children a softer side, offing stories and hope for the future — one of the few areas of disagreement between the two.
The overall apocalyptic story aside, it was this dynamic of shifting the perspective on what motherhood and fatherhood mean that held my interest through the movie.
Closing out, I suppose I have to talk about the memes surrounding Bird Box, which took over the internet for a period of time. These have both managed to help and hurt the movie — on the one hand increasing interest in the Netflix flick and on the other making it difficult for some to take it seriously. The movie certain seems to loose some of its edge as a thriller when there’s so much humor surrounding it. While this phenomena didn’t much affect my own viewing of the movie (I managed to miss most of it), it’s always fascinating to me how a form of media can get launched into the cultural consciousness in this way.