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Maternal instinct

Sandra Bullock (Netflix)


Maternal instinct

Sci-fi thriller Bird Box upholds motherhood and unborn life but suffers from R rating

Netflix’s thriller Bird Box drew so many eyes over the Christmas holiday, the streaming giant took the unprecedented step of revealing how many people checked out one of its original films—45 million. The company says this marks its highest seven-day viewing total ever.

Along with Sandra Bullock’s charisma as a leading lady, the movie boasts a riveting premise that feels like a cross between Lost and M. Night Shyamalan’s better efforts.

Malorie (Bullock) is a single, selfish artist who feels deeply ambivalent about the baby she’s carrying. Malorie’s sister counsels her that she should be more afraid of loneliness and isolation than motherhood. Her OB-GYN gently reprimands her that what’s causing the bulge in her belly is not a medical condition but a person.

Once the apocalypse appears to dawn, motherhood becomes her driving reason to survive. When mysterious beings suddenly arrive on earth, most people who see them commit suicide. A few others fall to crazed worship that they try violently to force others to join. The only way to avoid either fate is to shield your eyes.  

Throughout, Bird Box offers fascinating, if extreme, application of Christ’s teaching that it is better to pluck out your eyes if they cause you to stumble than to perish. Malorie’s transformation into a loving if stern parent willing to die to keep both of her children—one biological, one adopted—safe is also a beautiful illustration that true significance comes through serving others.

Unfortunately, Bird Box’s crackerjack story comes with an R-rated price that it easily could have avoided. Stripping out the frequent profanity and axing one glimpse of an unclothed couple (significant bits are blocked by limbs) and a few scenes of survival brutality is all it would have taken to make Bird Box something that could air on broadcast TV.

As Malorie observes early on, images have power. So do sounds. So like her, viewers should consult their consciences to decide whether seeing is worth the risk.