Bird Box, a recent Netflix release, is already setting viewing records. In its first week Netflix reports that 45 million subscribers watched the movie. Those are amazing numbers, during Christmas week when holiday films typically dominate.
After seeing a couple of previews, and knowing nothing more about the story, I can be counted as one of those 45 million. I’m still thinking about Bird Box.
Bird Box stars Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich, Trevante Rhodes, Sarah Paulson, Danielle Macdonald, Tom Hollander, Vivien Blair and Julian Edwards. This drama thriller is directed by Susanne Bier and based on the novel by the same name, written by Josh Malerman. It carries an R rating for language, violence, adult themes and intense scenes and has a run time of 2 hours and 4 minutes.
Chaos and Hysteria
*Warning – spoilers. Ending is not revealed.*
This apocalyptic type story alternates between current time and flashbacks that fill in the narrative.
In the present, a woman and her two small children navigate down a river in a simple flat bottom boat, blindfolded, seeking sanctuary. Malorie (Bullock) gives stern commands to the children, called Boy (Edwards) and Girl (Blair), telling them to listen for danger and do exactly what she says.
The three survived a dark menace that has wiped out most of the world’s population. Their only hope of survival is to reach a community of people that exists further down the river.
The flashbacks take us back five years, to the beginning of the chaos. A pregnant Malorie and her sister Jessica (Paulson) visit the hospital for a routine prenatal exam. Reports are coming in via television and social media that some sort of strange epidemic is sweeping through Russia and Europe. People are killing themselves by the thousands.
Hysteria and chaos quickly arrive in California, as Malorie and Jessica leave the hospital.
In moments people are dying on the streets. Without warning they become extremely frightened or hopelessly sad by something only they can see. The strong emotion drives them to kill themselves.
Jessica wrecks the car and immediately steps in front of a bus. In shock, Malorie is helped to her feet. People are dying around her, even as they try to assist her. A stranger named Tom (Rhodes) propels Malorie to a neighborhood house where they are permitted to enter.
The group inside, organized by a cynical man named Douglas (Malkovich), quickly realizes they must not look outside. The entities causing death and chaos cannot be physically seen, however looking toward them causes the viewer to see their worst fear or their greatest sorrow. The sight drives them to madness and their deaths.
Ultimately the little group includes another pregnant woman, Olympia (Macdonald), and an assortment of people who were once strangers to each other. They are bound together by their need to survive.
When food runs low, several members of the group attempt to secure supplies at a nearby supermarket. Donning blindfolds and covering the windows of the car, they use GPS to successfully navigate to and from the store. During their first supply run, Malorie finds three caged birds. She discovers that the birds sense the presence of the entities and brings them back to the house.
The group survives, until Gary (Hollander) arrives, pretending to need help. He talks about people who can look at the entities and live. They find the creatures beautiful and want everyone to look at them. Douglas does not trust Gary. He is right to be concerned.
Ultimately only Malorie, Tom and the two babies survive. Olympia has asked Malorie to care for her daughter if something happened to her. Malorie never names the children, calling them Boy and Girl. For five years the two adults and the children move from place to place and learn how to get by.
And then there are three. Malorie is desperate to protect the children. Guided by a voice on the radio, she places Boy and Girl in the little boat, along with the birds, in a box, and follows the directions she’s been given. Down the river they go. They cannot look. And they must not remove the blindfolds, or they will die.
The fierce desire to live and the hope for safety and a life that is more than survival compels Malorie to keep fighting and to keep going.
My Thoughts About Bird Box
This is a tense, well done film with underlying messages that are intended to be interpreted by the viewer. Neat and tidy answers are not provided, about the cause of the epidemic or the nature of the entities. The characters speculate and offer possibilities.
The most simple, but not necessarily correct, interpretation is that the entities have a dark spiritual nature. They are demon-type creatures drawn out by mankind’s downward destructive slide. They can’t be seen, other than as shadowy shapes as they pass a window or as a ripple of energy that disturbs leaves…and birds. However, the characters see troubling visions when the entities are present, causing them to kill themselves. Or those who are deemed mad already don’t harm themselves after seeing the creatures but seek to destroy others.
The birds are an interesting symbol in the film. They are considered messengers that go between humans and the spirit world. Birds have been used, historically, to give warnings of other unseen dangers, such as gas in a mine.
The blindness is symbolic on many levels. See no evil comes to mind. Blind trust also, which is connected to faith. The expression “seeing is believing” fits appropriately into this story. And the eyes being the windows of the soul give deeper meaning as well.
At the heart of Bird Box is Malorie. She’s tough, self-reliant and very protective of her heart. Not naming the children shows her determination to strengthen them so they will survive…as tenderness is seen as weakness…and it shows how much she fears losing them. Detachment seems vital to keeping her heart intact.
I enjoyed Bird Box. The intensity of some of the scenes certainly created tension however the symbolism, deeper messages and unanswered questions stirred my inquisitive nature. I’m still thinking about this movie and intend to watch it again so I can delve deeper.
I’d love to know your interpretations of the story!