First and foremost, Grace is a movie that makes me feel extremely lucky to be a man. I’ve always held a dualism of both unease and admiration when it comes to pregnant women and mothers with babies. The admiration comes from the mother’s ability to carry an ever-growing life in her belly for nine months, her willingness to devote countless hours to her baby’s well being, and a mother’s unrivaled dedication to raising her offspring. However, this unrivaled dedication is also a cause for the unease I sometimes feel with the whole idea of new mothers, which was highlighted during the movie. Two characters in particular show this – Madeline and Vivian.
From the beginning of the film, it is obvious the Vivian is still very attached to her son, despite him being a full-grown adult. She is very involved in his life and watches over him the same way a mother would watch over a young boy. The death of Vivian’s son is the trigger that sets her off. The loss of her subject of motherly love left her with a void that she sought to fill by pilfering Grace from Madeline, whom she never approved of and deemed unworthy of her son and granddaughter. During Vivian’s pursuit of Grace is where we see the extremes of motherly love come to the fore. One of the most unsettling results of this is when Vivian and her husband engage in sexual foreplay, with the scene ending showing the husband suckling her breast almost in the same way a baby would. She did not engage in this act out of love or desire for her husband, but because she wanted to stimulate her nipples in preparation for nursing Grace. Another manifestation of the deranged motherly love of Vivian is when she struck a deal with the doctor. For the doctor’s help in proving that Madeline is an incapable mother, Vivian promised the doctor that she would help him out of some legal trouble. This abuse of power is unsettling and twisted because Vivian is a judge and is portrayed as an upright person despite her motherly derangement.
Madeline on the other hand takes motherly devotion to an even higher level. Her devotion for Grace leads to many of the sources of horror in film – bleeding breasts, murder, feeding her baby cow blood. Madeline shows such an extreme extent to which a mother will care for her baby. While this may seem farfetched and outlandish, when I think about it can we really blame her for being the way she is? Grace was a miracle baby, born from death and is the fulfillment of the greatest desire of Madeline. Despite Grace’s obvious abnormalities, Madeline refuses to put her in any danger and is willing to take care of her no matter the consequences, leading to murder and even feeding Grace her own flesh.
I believe that Madeline cannot be dismissed a crazy madwoman, but she should be recognized as the embodiment of just how devoted motherly love is – that it puts the baby’s interest above and beyond anything else including the self, values, and other’s lives.