Ending Explained is a recurring series in which we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. This time, we look at the ending of the Hulu Original horror movie False Positive. Yes, prepare for spoilers.
The latest entry in the pregnancy-horror subgenre, John Lee‘s False Positive follows Lucy and Adrian Martin (Ilana Glazer and Justin Theroux), a couple who, after having trouble conceiving a child, seek out the expertise of a charismatic fertility specialist, Dr. Hindle (Pierce Brosnan). Soon enough, Lucy becomes pregnant with twin boys and a girl, but for her safety, a selective reduction is recommended, and she chooses to eliminate the two male fetuses. The story then takes a sinister turn when she begins to suspect that her husband and doctor are conspiring against her and her unborn baby.
In the Hulu Original’s gory third act, Lucy gives birth. Instead of the little girl that she was expecting, however, she delivers the twin boys after all. At that point, she decides to take matters into her own hands. She returns to the lab to confront Dr. Hindle, who reveals that he actually impregnated her with his own semen — as he does with every woman who comes into his practice — because he believes his genes are superior. This is the last straw for Lucy. She beats the hell out of him, throws out his sperm vials, and takes off with her daughter’s aborted fetus.
At home, Lucy is still convinced that Adrian was in on Dr. Hindle’s nefarious plot. She confronts him, but he denies any involvement. Then, she hands him the twin baby boys and tells him to leave with them. Once Adrian is gone, Lucy picks up the fetus and pretends to nurse it. And then it latches on.
If you watched False Positive and found yourself dumbfounded when the credits began to roll at the end, don’t worry. The movie is confusing, and its ending is ambiguous. But that is a large part of its purpose. Multiple times throughout the movie, the term “mommy brain” is used to explain away strange occurrences, such as hallucinations and amnesia, experienced by Lucy. In simple terms, “mommy brain” is defined as the cloudy state of mind that pregnant and postnatal mothers sometimes experience due to a perfect storm of hormones and sleep deprivation.
But in False Positive, the idea of “mommy brain” is employed as a convenient method of gaslighting Lucy. Do you have sufficient evidence that your fertility doctor is trying to kill your baby? “Mommy brain.” Do you think your husband is spying on you? Also “mommy brain” – duh!
Although it stands to reason why some viewers may find the ambiguous ending of False Positive to be frustrating, the movie does accurately depict the terrifying mental state that is so often passed off as “mommy brain.” But in addition to her experiencing disconcerting illusions, Lucy’s paranoia also winds up being valid since her choice in the selective reduction procedure was disregarded, and Dr. Hindle was indeed conspiring by impregnating her with his own sperm.
This doesn’t change the fact, however, that a few things that happen in the movie quite obviously exist outside of the realm of reality. When she lifts the twins up to the window and they float away, for example. And when the fetus is resurrected and begins to breastfeed.
For the viewer, the line between reality and imagination is blurred. This just places the audience more effectively in the scary, uncertain shoes of a pregnant woman who is being mistreated. Ultimately, whether everything is real, or everything is imagined, or there is a perfect combination of the two, it’s a lose-lose situation for Lucy. If what’s happening is real, then she’s being subjected to monstrous abuse. And if she’s hallucinating, then she’s suffering inwardly and not being taken seriously by those who are supposed to be looking out for her. And that’s another form of abuse.
So does False Positive have a happy ending? In a way, it does. So many of Lucy’s struggles center around her lacking control. She wants to be impregnated by Adrian’s sperm but is unknowingly impregnated by Dr. Hindle’s. She wants to keep the girl and not the boys, but the girl is aborted anyway. Even at work, she is told that she can take the lead on an advertising account that she is excited about. But later on, during her pregnancy, her boss suddenly snatches the client out from under her. But in the final shot of the movie, Lucy has finally taken back some of her power.
Even if she’s imagining it, for a second, Lucy has the daughter she always wanted. And maybe that’s a true victory from her perspective. Or maybe it is just another false positive.
False Positive is now streaming on Hulu.