Many things about the new film Bird Box may make you uncomfortable. There’s the obvious stuff, like a terrifying menace taking over the world that kills you if you simply look at it, as well as how that menace impacts different people in surprising and scary ways. Then, most interestingly, there’s how the film portrays its lead character.
In Bird Box, Sandra Bullock plays Malorie, a loner with strong beliefs who, we learn early on, has little interest in having a family. However, we also learn early on that five years into the future she’ll have two kids she’s trying to save by riding with them, blindfolded, down a river hoping to get to a place where they’ll all be safe.
As the film goes back and forth between Malorie and the kids in the present and the world crumbling in the past, we learn that Malorie may be taking care of the kids not out of love, but out of necessity, which feels awfully cynical in an already depressing situation. However, director Susanne Bier says this harsh, clinical take on motherhood in writer Eric Heisserer’s adaptation of Josh Malerman’s 2014 novel is one of the main things that attracted her to the film.
“It’s a profoundly interesting take on motherhood,” Bier told io9. “And it’s actually a take on motherhood which is way more written and conceived from a female perspective than motherhood has been for hundreds of years.”
The stereotypical perspective on motherhood which Bier is alluding to is one of overt emotion. A kind of gushy, over-the-top love and nurturing. The feeling most of us get when thinking of our families. Which is definitely not Malorie in Bird Box. But Bier says that doesn’t mean she isn’t a strong mother.
“Her parental take is about ‘Those kids are going to survive and I’m going to do whatever it takes for them to survive,’” she said. “And that put her in a state of being so determined that she is harsh and brutal, and not necessarily kind, and not necessarily loving or showing her love, and not allowing herself to feel the love. But she is going to have them survive.”
Normally when a movie portrays a mother figure in such an unemotional state, she’s evil. A villain. And that certainly could be how some people view Malorie at certain points of Bird Box. Bier, however, credits her lead actress for making Malorie such a unique character, because she expertly threads that needle of a mother who has her own way of parenting.
“Because it’s Sandra Bullock you’ve got no doubt why she does it,” Beir said. “Because Sandra is so honest and so sincere and so likable that you kind of enjoy that. But it’s a very original unconventional take on motherhood which I think is pretty amazing within a big genre film.”
That big genre film, with its complex and rewarding take on motherhood, is now streaming on Netflix.
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