To what extent can a mother love her child?
Beyond our understanding. This is how the movie Grace answers the question posed above. Suffering from a freak accident that cause her husband’s demise, Madeline Matheson insists on keeping her dead unborn child until she delivers it under the supervision of Patricia Lang, her midwife. Despite this, however, Madeline’s child, Grace, miraculously survives minutes after the delivery but carries with her an insatiable thirst for blood.
The horrifying visuals of a child sucking the blood from her mom during breastfeeding give to us two seemingly contrasting actions: selfishness in the case of the child and altruism in the case of the mother. While the child does not care whether she kills the mother through her blood thirsty acts, the mother still gives unconditionally, even if she was hurting to the point of possibly dying. People may think how Madeline is too “stupid” by not only giving birth through a midwife, but also keeping her baby to herself without seeking medical attention, two acts that we think many other viewers will take if in case they were in a similar situation. However, as out of this world as it seems, the movie also paradoxically portrays a situation not too far from reality – in fact we are part of that horrific reality that it wants to show.
First, in the seemingly normal character of the mother in law, an interesting case is how the movie subtly shows her obsessed, if not even sicker, than Madeline in wanting to have Grace in lieu of her son who died in a freak accident. She even goes to the extreme cases of even trying to steal the child from Madeline amidst her tendencies to project her maternal obsession by not only trying to pump milk out of her breasts but also letting her husband “breastfeed”. While we may see Madeline as very sick in a way that she allows herself to be devoured by her kin, we can also safely say that the mother in law, a representative of the normal, can be sicker and even more horrifying than Madeline herself as her selfish motivations brought a lot of deaths in the movie.
However, I would like to also focus on a more interesting character: Grace. First and foremost, we are all children of our parents. While we may not be as blood thirsty as Grace physically, we can all act like her, draining out the lives of our parents no matter what age we are in. Living in a Filipino context, we can all possibly relate to the movie given our predominantly matriarchal society. Our mothers play a big role in our lives and we know how they care for us and help us no matter what becomes of us. However, like Grace, we are possibly also as selfish in our own ways. We may have caused our parents hardships and suffering so great similar to the emotional hardships of Madeline. In fact, the act of breastfeeding is in itself a form of selfishness from the perspective of the child, what more acts like lying, cheating, and disrespecting them? Moreover, we can cause our parents hardships because of them fulfilling their obligations as parents for us, like providing us with shelter, education, and safety. However, as the movie shows us, even these cannot stop the mother from continually loving her child because she sees it really as a grace, a very special and delicate gift of life.
The movie also particularly reminds me of the song “Anak” by Freddie Aguilar that talks about the experience of having a child. This child gave his parents headaches by purposely following a rebellious path that parents would really dislike but then realizes in the end, when he was at his low, that he had nowhere to go but back to his parents. While this is focused on the child’s perspective, we can also see how this song resonates to how parents would really love us no matter what and how generally blood is thicker than water. This even goes to a more spiritual level when we hear of the stories of the prodigal son and in a more local and realistic context in the case of Jason Ivler and his mom (an interesting story about how a mother would go to the limits to protect her son found here in this link: http://www.femalenetwork.com/news-features/jason-ivlers-mother-allegedly-hid-him-from-the-law-would-you-do-the-same-for-your-child/). This just goes to show how the irrational becomes rational in reality, especially in the context of the family.
In the end, we are all like Grace – that no matter what we do (at least for most of us), our parents will always see us as a blessing and gift for in one aspect we came from them too. While the movie delves into the realms of lesbianism and possibly post-menopausal obsession, the movie effectively and predominantly shows to us that a mother would go to infinite lengths for her child, even if it possibly means giving up her own life – a rationality of irrationality.