Spoilers ahead for Bird Box.
Although it’s a movie filled with people looking at invisible monsters and going insane, the heart of Bird Box is a story about motherhood. At the start of the story, we see Mallory (Sandra Bullock) who, despite living through an apocalypse, is largely similar to the person she was before evil spirits came and ruined the world. In the first scene, she has two children who she refuses to even give a name. They are “boy” and “girl” and she tells them that in order to survive their journey down the river, they have to follow all of her instructions and if they don’t, she will hurt them. Cut back five years and Mallory is considering giving up her baby for adoption, but the apocalypse kind of curtails that plan.
At the climax of the film, Mallory is truly tested in protecting the boy and girl as the evil spirits create auditory hallucinations tempting the children to take off their blindfolds, which will cause them to go insane and kill themselves. Up to this point, Mallory has been driven by survival. She refuses to let herself open up because her pragmatism has been her guiding force through this cataclysmic event. But when they’re so close to finally reaching safe haven, Mallory’s tough exterior breaks and she claims them as her children.
That’s because for all of the monsters and suicides and subtext about how the outside world is a scary place filled with crazy people who are either self-destructive or bent on destroying others, the core of Bird Box is about being a parent. Mallory’s arc in the movie is about going from just surviving with other people to accepting that her motherhood is simply more than just keeping children alive. That’s certainly part of motherhood, but it’s not the totality of it, and when she finally fights back to keep the children safe, she accepts that she loves them not just as fellow survivors, but as a mother.
When they arrive at the safe haven, they discover it’s been safe because it’s a home for the blind. Blind people are immune to the evil spirits because there’s no way they can “look” at them, and they’ve learned how to live without their sight. It’s a solid plot explanation for why this safe haven exists, but the real ending is Mallory finally giving names to her children. They are no longer people who could be lost. They have a chance at a life and at more than just survival. And so at the end of the road, Mallory has accepted that despite the many dangers outside the walls of the sanctuary, she can be a mother to these two children.