Netflix's new post-apocalyptic thriller Bird Box is set in a world where just looking outside the window can get you killed, so we're here to explain the movie's mysterious monsters and its nail-biting ending. Sandra Bullock stars as Malorie, a woman who is trying to keep her two children - simply called Boy (Julian Edwards) and Girl (Vivien Lyra Blair) - alive five years after almost everyone on Earth was killed by the arrival of entities that drive anyone who sees them to violent suicide.
Directed by Susanne Bier and based on the novel by Josh Malerman, Bird Box switches between two time periods: the immediate aftermath of the outbreak, and Malorie's fight for survival, and her efforts five years later to get herself and the kids safely down the river to a promised sanctuary. To begin with she finds herself with a large group of people in a safe house, and even manages to secure a treasure trove of food supplies. However, it isn't long before disaster whittles down their numbers to just Malorie, the two children, and romantic interest Tom (played by Moonlight's Trevante Rhodes).
Malorie and Tom are eking out a mostly peaceful survival in the woods when they receive a call on the radio from someone called Rick (Pruitt Taylor Vince), who tells them that if they can make it down the river there's somewhere safe for them. It's a big risk to take, and one that Malorie is resistant to at first, but Bird Box's ending reveals why she decided to take her kids on such a dangerous trip.
- This Page: What Happens in Bird Box's Ending
- Page 2: What Are the Monsters in Bird Box?
- Page 3: What Bird Box's Ending Really Means
What Happens in Bird Box's Ending
After the sweet but too-trusting Olympia (Danielle MacDonald) lets a stranger, Gary (Tom Hollander), into the house, it's eventually revealed that he is one of the people who can survive looking at the entities, but are corrupted in the process and driven to fanatical worship. Recognizable by their warped irises, these disciples are obsessed with getting other people to look at the entities, which they believe are beautiful. As Olympia and Malorie go into labor simultaneously, Gary reveals his true colors and begins ripping down the covers from the windows. Cheryl (Jacki Weaver) and Olympia both see the entities and promptly kill themselves, though Malorie is able to convince Olympia to hand over her baby girl before she dies. Gary also kills Douglas (John Malkovich) before he himself is finally killed by Tom.
At this point Bird Box moves forward five years in time, to shortly before Malorie takes the kids on the trip down the river. She and Tom are now a couple and have a mostly stable set-up where they can grow their own food, but they've already stripped almost all of the nearby houses bare of resources. After a frightening encounter with a roaming group of marauders corrupted by the entities, they receive a call on the radio from a stranger called Rick, who says there is a sanctuary that can be reached by two days travel along the river. Tom is keen to find out more about the sanctuary, while Malorie is far less trusting, believing that it could be a way to lure them out so that the entities can get them.
The next day, the whole family heads out on a supply run to a neighboring house, but while they're inside the group of marauders arrives at the house. Tom tells Malorie to take the kids and head for the boat if he doesn't return, and then goes to the front of the house to confront the marauders. He succeeds in wounding one of them with the shotgun, but quickly realizes that his blindfold is too much of a handicap. Tom removes his blindfold and successfully manages to kill most of the attackers, but one marauder (played by David Dastmalchian) spots Malorie and the children and takes off after them. Tom pursues him, but catches sight of one of the entities. His irises warp, but with great effort he manages to shoot the final marauder before he is compelled to shoot himself in the head.
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Malorie is distraught upon realizing that Tom must have sacrificed his own life to save them, and decides to carry out his dying wish to try and get herself and the children to the sanctuary. The movie then jumps forward to the moment when their boat is about to go over the rapids, the most dangerous part of the river, and Malorie must choose which of the children has to take off their blindfold in order to tell her which way to row. Ultimately she cannot bring herself to choose either of them, and instead decides to tackle the rapids blind - for better or worse. It's a rough trip, during which the boat eventually overturns, but they manage to make it to shore and start searching for the sanctuary by listening to birdsong.
The final part of the journey proves to be the most difficult. Walking blindfolded through unfamiliar woods is treacherous, and Malorie trips and falls down a slope, briefly knocking herself out. The children wander off in different directions and the entities whisper to them in Malorie's voice, encouraging them to take off their blindfolds. Malorie manages to find Boy by the ringing of his bicycle bell, but Girl has dropped hers and won't come when called, because - as Boy explains - Malorie has been so harsh with them that Girl is afraid of her. Panicking, Malorie apologizes and finishes the story that Tom was telling them earlier, promising that one day the children will be able to play freely with other children and climb trees. To her relief, Girl finally returns, and the three of them make their way to the sanctuary.
Banging frantically on the door as the entities gather behind her, Malorie begs the people inside to at least let her children in. Eventually the door opens and the three of them are ushered inside, where their eyes are quickly checked for signs of infection. Once they are cleared, Malorie realizes that the sanctuary is actually a school for the blind, so most of the inhabitants are completely immune to the entities. Inside the school is a courtyard filled with birds and covered by a green canopy. Malorie tells the children that they can set the birds in their bird box free now, and they do so, watching the birds fly up into the canopy.
Malorie is then reunited with her OB-GYN, Dr. Lapham (Parminder Nagra), who has also survived and is relieved to see that Malorie made it as well. She asks the children what their names are, and they tell her they are called Boy and Girl. Malorie then decides to finally give them names, calling the girl Olympia (after her mother) and the boy Tom (after his late adoptive father). Olympia and Tom then run off to play with the other children, and Bird Box ends on a hopeful note, with Malorie looking up at the canopy full of birds.
Page 2: What Are the Monsters?
What Are The Monsters in Bird Box?
Bird Box's ending doesn't offer any clear answers as to where the entities came from, whether they're supernatural or alien in nature, or even what exactly people see when they look at them. However, by the end of the movie we do have a fairly clear idea of how they operate, and it's possible that the charcoal drawings (pictured above) that Gary lays out on the coffee table before he goes on his killing spree show what he sees when he looks at the entities.
What we do know about the monsters is that they're invisible when no one is looking at them (or at least, that's how the Bier chooses to portray them), but they are detectable by the way they affect gravity - arriving in gusts of wind that blow leaves around, and even causing leaves to lift off the ground and hover in the air. When they get close to Girl, her hair can be seen lifting from her head. The monsters don't appear to be strong enough to physically harm people or even break through doors and windows, which is why they rely on some people becoming their disciples and trying to force others into looking at them. It's implied that these disciples were people who were already mentally ill, and are therefore affected differently by seeing the entities.
As for what most people see when they look at the entities... well, it's never fully spelled out, but it seems to always be something that makes the person either terribly afraid, terribly sad, or both. Lydia (Rebecca Pidgeon), for example, calls out to her mother before climbing into a burning car. Whatever it is that they see, it's clear that the sight alone isn't enough to drive people to suicide. Looking at these creatures also causes physical damage - like the warping of people's irises - so it's safe to assume that they automatically trigger some kind of suicidal impulse inside the brain. This impulse cannot be ignored, but it can be briefly resisted with great effort, which is what allows Olympia to hand over her baby before killing herself, and allows Tom to take out the marauder before turning the gun on himself.
The characters themselves float some theories as to what the monsters are. Douglas thinks it's some kind of biological warfare, while Charlie (Lil Rel Howery) thinks that humanity has been judged and found wanting, and points to his research on the topic of demons and the apocalypse. He cites Zorastrian myths about Aka Manah (a seductive demonic entity), the Christian demon Surgat ("who opens all locks"), the Chinese fox spirits known as the huli jing, and the mischievous Celtic spirits called púca. Charlie posits that these are all different names for the same thing: a demonic entity that preys on people.
Based on the fact that the entities seem to have supernatural knowledge of people's weaknesses (they know to call out to Malorie in her sister's voice, and in Tom's), and Gary's drawings of them, Charlie's theory that the monsters are demonic in nature seems pretty sound. This is also reinforced by the fact that birds are able to sense their presence, since in many mythologies, cultures and religions birds are associated with psychopomps - spirits that guide people from the land of the living to the land of the dead.
Bird Box Is A Story About Learning To Hope
Bird Box is as much a character study as it is a post-apocalyptic thriller, examining the different ways in which people cope with the apparent end of the world. Early on in the movie, Malorie is deliberately paired up with Olympia so that audiences can see the contrast between the two pregnant women. Olympia openly admits that she is very soft, having been spoiled by her parents and then taken care of by her husband, without ever having really had to fend for herself. In contrast to Olympia's sweetness, compassion, and trusting nature, Malorie is much more hardened, having been raised by a bad father and forced to look out for herself from an early age. This hardness is only compounded by her experiences in the apocalypse: seeing how Olympia's trusting nature gets herself and almost everyone else killed, and taking on board Douglas' pearls of wisdom about how there are only two kinds of people - "the a**holes, and the dead."
Malorie is ultimately afraid of allowing herself to openly love her children, for fear that she will make them too soft or that it will hurt too much when she loses them. Because of this fear, she refuses to give them real names, referring to them only as "Girl" and "Boy," despite Tom's objections. She is focused only on ensuring their survival, and clashes with Tom when he tries to give them hope by telling them a story about climbing a tree and finding a bird's nest at the top. She is angry at him for promising things she doesn't believe they'll ever get to enjoy, while Tom insists that simply surviving isn't the same as living.
The promised sanctuary is a symbol of this dilemma. While it represents hope for a better future, it also represents the risk of opening oneself up to betrayal. Bird Box makes it clear that the entities' disciples are clever, and will use all kinds of trickery in order to lure people out into the open. The radio call from Rick is deliberately ambiguous with several red flags, such as Rick asking for their location and asking if they have any children with them (the disciples seem to have a particular fascination with children).
Bird Box's ending ultimately demonstrates that Malorie's ruthless approach to survival is as dangerous as Olympia's naivete and compassion. When Girl wanders off in the woods, she is so afraid of Malorie that she almost succumbs to the entities, and it's not until Malorie embraces Tom's outlook of hope and optimism for the future that Girl is eventually returned to her.
The Real Meaning of Bird Box's Ending
There's a deeper meaning to the revelation that the sanctuary is actually a school for the blind. It represents the power of blind faith - the kind of faith that Malorie had when she chose to take on the rapids with both herself and her children blindfolded. That was a decision that thrust them into danger, but ultimately they all survived - something that probably would not have happened if one of the children had been forced to look where they were going.
Bird Box's ending perfectly summarizes the movie's upending of ideas about what constitutes weakness and what constitutes strength. Malorie thinks that to love openly is a weakness, but opening herself up to love is what saves her children. Similarly, blindness (which is typically thought of as a handicap) turns out to be the ultimate protection against the monsters. Not only are Rick and the other blind people immune to the effects of both suicide and madness, they're also especially well-prepared for a world where the ability to operate without sight is a key survival trait.
Malorie's final acts in Bird Box - naming Olympia and Tom, sending them off to play with other children, and setting the birds free - represent her finally letting down the wall she has built up around herself. The birds in the bird box represent the way she has carefully kept her own feelings caged, and so the movie's final shot is an image of hope, openness, and faith that things will get better.