If I were to be asked what “Grace” was about, I wouldn’t begin by describing how a bloodthirsty baby would suck so passionately on her mother’s breast to the point that she rips off her mother’s nipples. I wouldn’t dare even mention how the mother would literally drain out the blood of a recently killed man and put it in the baby’s bottle for a snack. I would definitely leave out the final scene showing the mangled breast of the mother, which to me looked like ground zero of the World Trade Center. If I were to summarize the film in a way that would be easier to digest, I would say the movie was really just about giving birth. Because the image of a mother giving birth pretty much symbolizes the very theme of the movie. The other scenes, the blood and the murders were merely seasonings to an otherwise straightforward salad.
Before the movie, we were talking about how we humans have the tendency to repress many of our animalistic behaviors and desires and rightfully so because if we didn’t, our civilizations would cease to exist. What sets human beings apart is that we have the capability to control ourselves, to not be enslaved by instinct, to have the wisdom to know how to act appropriately. These desires that we so desperately try to hide within the deepest core of ourselves – our subconscious, resembles that of a baby growing gradually inside its mother’s womb. And as time goes by, there comes the point where our desires become too large to contain that it begins to creep out and take hold of us, pretty much in the same way that a baby would desperately worm itself out of its mother during birth. And this image for me, is the groundwater on which the movie flows. It is about how our deepest darkest secrets creep into our realities and take hold of our lives.
In the movie, we see different characters each of which have their own repressions that in the movie manifests themselves in different ways. The main character, Madeline, was a vegetarian who probably didn’t know she had such a passion for meat. Her denial of meat manifests itself in her unconscious interest in watching animal slaughter, in how her mouth was watering when her husband was having steak and ironically in her anemic daughter. She denied herself of red meat and figuratively and literally, this repression showed itself in her bloodthirsty daughter that would dig in deep when suckling, so deep in fact as to draw blood from her mother’s breast. Madeline, before she got married, was a lesbian and had a relationship with her midwife and this probably explains why she was so platonic when she and her husband make love. She denied her own sexuality and this manifested in how lifeless her relationship was with her husband.
Her mother-in-law was also a repressed mother. She had an obsessive-compulsive disorder and the death of her son probably triggered her obsessions. She missed being a mother and this is probably why she was always breathing down the necks of the couple. Her insistence of them to go to a hospital was also a manifestation of her tendency to be a control freak. When she got herself a breast pump, or when she made her husband suck on her breasts, those were probably manifestations of her deep desire to be a mother once again.
The movie says a lot about a very human truth that as human beings, there are many things that we have to deny ourselves in order to be accepted into society. We cannot act based on our whims and that there are many animalistic desires that we hold dear in our figurative wombs. These desires that we nurture within us are things that are not so alien to us. They “carry our genes” and “have our eyes” and would probably also “carry our last names.” We are the things that we show to the world just as much as we too are the things we do not show. We are one with our repressions in the very same way that for 9 months, a mother and a child were one.