Bird Box is arguably Netflix’s biggest Original release to date. According to the streaming service, Susanne Bier’s post-apocalyptic thriller was viewed 45 million times during the weekend of release. If Netflix was being honest with us, then Bird Box had the best opening weekend of any movie ever. On top of that, the film also spawned countless viral memes and “Bird Box Challenges” to become a pop culture phenomenon. I even participated in a food contest inspired by the movie and won. Let’s be honest: none of us predicted any of this happening.
Speaking of “happening”, Bird Box is somewhat reminiscent of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening in terms of similar ideas and story beats, albeit less ridiculous and outrageously entertaining. But it’s still a fun melodramatic survival yarn that many people — myself included — did enjoy. While the film is essentially a B-movie with a budget, it certainly isn’t short of thought-provoking themes, ambition, or surprises. It’s understandable why the flick has been such a hot topic of conversation in movie discourse.
The thriller follows opens with Malorie (Sandra Bullock) ordering her two children to wear blindfolds and not to remove them or else they’ll die. We then rewind to five years previously, when the proverbial shit first hit the fan. As it turns out, some unknown creatures — that we never get to see — have convinced people to take their own lives simply by meeting their gaze. This forces the world’s survivors to blindfold themselves and navigate through the dangerous terrains without the ability to see.
The movie oscillates between the past and the present. In the former, Malorie teams up with a group of survivors as they look for safety and encounter danger. In the modern day, she’s holed up in a cabin with her kids and boyfriend (Trevante Rhodes). They’ve learned about a sanctuary for survivors. The only downside is that traveling to the destination requires a perilous trip through white water rapids while blindfolded. When danger finds them and kills off her boyfriend, though, Malorie and the kids are forced to brave the journey.
When we first meet Malorie, she doesn’t come across as the maternal type. For a start, her kids are simply named Boy and Girl, and the way she talks to them is more akin to a military instructor than, say, a caring mother. While it’s evident that she cares about the children’s survival, we get the impression that she doesn’t want to take responsibility for them in the long-run. At least not at first…
Bird Box’s premise fairly standard stuff. The idea of trying to survive in a world gone mad without the ability adds a unique spin to the story, but overall it’s just another tale of survivors looking for somewhere safe to reside. The real story, though, is about Malorie’s journey towards accepting responsibility for the children and eventually embracing them.
The most telling moment comes during the scene where their boat is drifting towards the most dangerous spot in the river and Malorie needs one of the children to remove their blindfold and tell her where to steer. However, she’s unable to make a decision and decides to chance their luck instead. The boat is overturned as a result, and the trio is led to shore — which presents a new set of problems.
Upon reaching the land, Malorie and her kids must venture through the woods in search of the sanctuary. None of them can see, though, which causes them to split apart. This is when we see Malorie showcase genuine maternal concern; she’s worried about these brats. Malorie then wanders around the woods calling out their names in the hopes of establishing an emotional connection; and despite the creature’s that hunt them doing their all to manipulate the family, they are eventually reunited and find their safe place.
The sanctuary is a school for the blind, and it’s been unaffected by the apocalypse. Here we see a community that flourishes and provides safety to its inhabitants. Malorie then decides to give her children names, indicating that she’s willing to love and care for them going forward. Malorie’s journey as a whole is one of hope; she overcame loneliness and fought to ensure a better future for her and the children. And that’s the message of Bird Box: no matter how dark times are, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.