‘Mother, May I?’ (2023) Summary & Review: Is There Tracy’s Spirit In The House?

Mother, May I? is a treat for those who enjoy psychological horror in cinema, featuring some familiar faces such as Kyle Gallner and Holland Roden. Directed by Laurence Vannicelli, the movie creates a web of psychological tension that keeps us engaged and intrigued throughout the film. With its clever storytelling, it dives into the intricate bond between mothers and children and also shows how society’s expectations can influence women’s choices about becoming mothers. The film skillfully uncovers the lasting effects of troubling childhood experiences and the emotional struggles of not receiving proper affection and care during childhood. The idea of longing for a deep and meaningful connection adds more layers to the story, making it a moving exploration of human feelings and poignant moments of life.

Spoilers Ahead

What Happens in The Film?

The story of Mother, May I? revolves around Emmett (played by Kyle Gallner), whose mother, Tracy, met her demise. Abandoned in his formative years, Emmett found an unexpected gift in the form of ownership of his mother’s property long after his abandonment. As he accepted his mother’s house, he took along his fiancée, Anya (played by Holland Roden), to live there for a while until they would sell the property. Despite their initial appearance as a happy couple, certain issues in their relationship began to emerge, creating a gradual rift between them.

On a stormy night, shortly after Anya set foot into the house and experienced some psychedelics with Emmett, a baffling transformation unfolded. The next day, very abruptly, she assumed the persona of Tracy, mimicking her speech, movements, and cooking practices—surprising Emmett, who was wondering how Anya could have learned to cook so quickly. Even her wardrobe choices shifted to mirror Tracy’s elegant style, and she became adept at activities like yoga and swimming, in both of which Anya had never shown interest or aptitude. Emmett became increasingly worried by these changes, prompting him to confront Anya about her role-playing. However, he soon began to adjust to the situation as Anya, in her guise as Tracy, administered a drug-laden injection that induced a sense of acceptance in Emmett, leading him to embrace her portrayal of his mother.

Curiously, the moment Emmett began to empathize with Tracy and acknowledge his long-suppressed yearning for her, Anya’s transformation started to recede. In the meantime, their constant efforts to conceive proved futile due to Anya’s poor reproductive health. Seeking to address these issues and heal their emotional wounds, they explored reversal chair therapy, a method that allowed them to temporarily embody each other’s personas to engage in open conversations. During this process, the viewers uncovered that Emmett’s emotional struggles weren’t unique to him; Anya also grappled with a desire for maternal affection from her own mother, who was a psychoanalyst and never managed to make time for her daughter.

Emmett and Anya tried to talk things out and mend their problems. However, Emmett’s deep yearning for his absent mother remained even after Anya returned to her usual self. Struggling to accept Anya’s return, Emmett tested her by pushing her into the water to see if she could really swim. However, seeing Anya drowning, Emmett swiftly jumped in and saved her when she struggled. This confirmed that Anya wasn’t pretending to be Tracy and made them realize that Tracy’s spirit might be influencing the house.

Anya’s curiosity led her to the basement, where she found out that Emmett had been taken in by foster parents. A neighbor, who had a romantic history with Tracy, shared that Emmett was a troubled child, and Tracy had used drugs to calm him down. Emmett and Anya discussed these revelations, with Emmett still upset about not having a child and Anya unable to give him one. Anya helped Emmett see that he was seeking the affection he missed from his mother, beyond just desiring a child. In a poignant concluding scene, the couple performed the reversal chair again. Anya revealed her longing for a child she couldn’t have, while Emmett expressed his desire for a mother he couldn’t obtain. This deepened their understanding of each other’s emotional struggles.

‘Mother, May I?’ Review: Is The Film Worth Your Time?

The narrative intricately highlights Emmett and Anya’s journeys of self-discovery, navigating the complexities of relationships, maternal bonds, and individual traumas. Through its unique and absurd storytelling, the film presents a mesmerizing exploration of identity, emotional healing, and the profound impacts of both maternal absence and societal pressures.

Emmett and Anya, the central characters of the story, act as conduits for the audience’s thoughts. The creator cleverly uses an absurd narrative style that encourages viewers to draw their own conclusions and make connections between these characters. The film skillfully includes absurd elements, letting people interpret it in different ways while keeping the core of horror intact. Instead of relying on cheap jump scares, the horror aspects are complex and intellectually stimulating, creating a suspenseful and deep atmosphere. However, the way some of the plot twists unfold doesn’t create the desired impact. Even though the storytelling is generally well done, the important plot reveals could have been more gripping. These ending moments of twists don’t quite surprise the audience as strongly as they could have. Still, the movie shines in its writing, offering an engaging story, and its visual representation, giving a sense of artistry coming to life. Even in the film, the house itself becomes a character, echoing the memories and emotions of the characters. The horror elements inside the house highlight Emmett’s feelings, aggravating his pain and trauma from being abandoned as a child and developing certain mommy issues.

The performances in the movie are nothing short of remarkable, with particular acclaim reserved for Holland Roden. Her portrayal of the character, who undergoes constant shifts in personality, is truly commendable. Roden’s talent for authentically portraying the changing personas greatly enhances the film’s unsettling atmosphere. Her skillful performance brings authenticity to the nuanced emotional journey depicted on screen. Her portrayal of Anya brings a lot of questions to the viewers’ minds. As Anya takes on the persona of Emmett’s mother, it raises questions about how we define ourselves and whether we can truly shed our pasts. The manipulation of emotions and perceptions plays a significant role in the story.

Furthermore, the film touches on the societal expectations placed on women, particularly the pressure to become mothers. Anya’s adoption of Tracy’s persona could symbolize the struggle she might have faced during her childbirth and rearing a child, which was the same struggle Tracy might have suffered, causing her to ultimately abandon her child.

In such a way, Mother, May I? explores a variety of thought-provoking aspects that deeply resonate with the audience. This genre of films, including well-known titles like Grace, Inside, Babadook, and Baby Ruby, delves into the realm of childhood trauma and the pressure conceiving a child puts on a woman’s body. These movies shed light on the often overlooked complexities of a woman’s body and her overall well-being, especially when overshadowed by the overwhelming focus on motherhood.

In a similar vein, Mother, May I? skillfully examines the concept of a woman’s choice to give birth and the subsequent ramifications. This theme serves as a lens to magnify the societal norms that sometimes override a mother’s personal autonomy, ultimately highlighting the delicate balance between individual decisions and the expectations of those surrounding her. Within the narrative, Anya, the central character, finds herself trapped by such societal expectations, where her would-be husband criticizes her choices and doesn’t try to identify her health issues in his desperate yearning to have a child.

As the storyline unfolds, she gradually sacrifices her own aspirations to cater to her fiancé’s desires. This slow surrender to external pressures mirrors the potential loss of individuality, a phenomenon that resonates with many. While films like Barbie promote feminism and portray its transformative potential in an optimistic way, Mother, May I? shows an image of a different world. It masterfully portrays the negative repercussions of conforming to patriarchal norms and the looming fear of becoming lost in a crowd of predetermined choices. In essence, Mother, May I? stands as a compelling cautionary tale, skillfully illustrating the importance of protecting one’s unique identity in the face of societal pressures.

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Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda hails from a medical background, yet her journey is to cross the boundaries of medicine and survive in the cinematic world. The surrealistic beauty of cinema and art has attracted her from a very young age. She loves to write poems, songs, and stories, but her dream is to write films someday. She has also worked as a painter, but nothing attracts her more than cinema. Through her writings, she wants to explore the world of cinema more and more and take her readers on the same ride.

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In essence, Mother, May I? stands as a compelling cautionary tale, skillfully illustrating the importance of protecting one's unique identity in the face of societal pressures.'Mother, May I?' (2023) Summary & Review: Is There Tracy's Spirit In The House?