The familiarity of a mother-child relationship is something that is not an enigma to a lot of people. But what if becoming a mother turns out to be a trauma? What if you don’t want to be a mother but still need to carry out the burden amidst the gruesome glazes of society? Laurence Vannicelli has successfully explored such psychological complexities in his cinematic masterpiece, “Mother, May I?” The story explores two sides of a completely different paradigm. A son who needs a mother and a daughter who wants to be a mother Astonishingly, this enormous turmoil of needs and wants takes place between a couple: a son and a daughter, both neglected by their parents.

*Spoilers Ahead*

Mother, May I? (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

The film opens with Emmett’s mother, Tracy, lying on the floor. We see the camera zoom out from a wide landscape through the window, and there is a burning cigarette on the ashtray. Tracy dies amidst her soliloquy while smoking her favorite cigarette. Her acknowledgment of life remains unfulfilled as she takes her last ounce of breath.

Soon we see Emmett collecting the last remains of his mother and getting rid of them alongside his fiance, Anya. We understand that Emmett is not really into finishing his mother’s last rituals. He just wants to get rid of his mother’s house, which is left to him in the will. His attitude toward her is vastly understandable since his mother abandoned him during his childhood. But things start to get twisted when Anya enters the house. The house is outside the town, in the countryside, and situated in a fully off-grid place.

What happens to Anya when she enters Tracy’s House?

Before answering this part, we need to understand the two characters. Anya, in one word, is ‘opposite’ to Tracy. Tracy is tidy, can cook good food, and does make-up all day long. Anya, on the other hand, is completely disorganized. She never folds her clothes and doesn’t want to cook, either. All in all, Anya never wears makeup. She doesn’t even know how to swim because her mother never thought of it as a useful thing to learn. But somewhere along the line, Tracy and Anya were both artists.

Yes, Anya is struggling to put together her thoughts in her journals, but she has always been a poet. Tracy is a sophisticated woman who has always been the epitome of free will. She is close to nature, and she expresses her feelings in such a manner that, eventually, they will comfort you in ways you can never imagine.

So, when Anya enters Tracy’s house, somewhere inside the place, Tracy’s presence takes over Anya’s subconscious mind. Gradually, Anya starts acting like Tracy, which in many ways, makes Emmett very uncomfortable. Imagine your fiance acting like your mother. You may think of it as a funny role-play, just like Emmett does in the beginning. But soon, it becomes uncomfortable at first, and then gradually, Emmett starts to fear Anya’s presence in the room. Anya starts wearing make-up, cooks breakfast and even starts smoking. We see Anya swim. Things get messy when Anya totally forgets who she is and talks to Emmett as if he is her son.

What makes Emmett see Anya as his Mother?

After the events gradually start to change course, Emmett at first believes that Anya is trying to help him out with his situation with Tracy. They play a game called reverse chair, where they pretend to be the other person and express their problems. Basically, it is a guessing game where A pretends to be B and guesses what is troubling B. So, when Anya pretends to be Emmett and says that Emmett’s problem is that he wants to be a parent because his mother has abandoned him, things get messy. It is indeed a right guess, and Emmett is in denial. So, from Emmett’s point of view, Anya’s change of behavior somehow guides him to think that she is pretending to be his mother. How come?

Well, in one scene, we see Emmett confronting the changed Anya, who has completely forgotten the existence of Anya and is all Tracy now. At that moment, Emmett says Anya’s mother is a psychoanalyst who gets people to talk about their dark secrets or troubled pasts. So he thinks Anya is doing the same. She is just pretending to be his mother to understand the hidden truth inside Emmett’s mind. Why does he want to be a parent? Does he really want to have Anya’s child, or is he just trying to be a better parent than his mother ever was? Does he want to be a parent, or is it just a need that he needs to pursue? Complicated enough? Well, let’s go through Anya’s life, then.

Is Anya really possessed?

Well, the story plays perfectly to nullify the possession of any ghost. Yes, the film creates an eerie atmosphere. And yes, Anya’s behavior starts changing right after she wears Tracy’s dress. You are not wrong if you feel that Tracy’s ghost has possessed Anya. But before everything took place, Emmett and Anya took some mushrooms similar to psilocybin mushrooms. These mushrooms are known for their psychedelic features, where people sometimes imagine the things they want to see. These are dangerous, so do not ever try them at home.

Anyway, here comes the most exciting part of the film: Let’s understand Emmett’s situation first before he takes the mushroom. As the screenplay gradually reveals, we understand that Tracy has never really cared for Emmett. She tried to be a mother, but she never managed to emotionally connect with Emmett. This feeling of abandonment left Emmett with a feeling of nothingness toward his mother. He doesn’t hate her. He doesn’t miss her presence. Nevertheless, he only craves her love, which is hidden in his subconscious. He is in denial that he doesn’t care about Tracy. But in reality, he just wants to hug her for a longer period of time.

Mother, May I? (2023): Movie Ending Explained
A still from Mother, May I? (2023)

Coming back to his childhood, we encounter a conversation between Bill, a neighbor of Tracy, and Anya. Bill explains to her that as a child, Emmett was very hard to control. At times, Emmett used to go to Bill’s house with some serious injuries. Later, we see Anya take some pictures of little Emmett, who has some marks on his hand. These marks are generated by using some kind of tranquilizer.

We see those at the beginning of the film in the first aid box. It can be assumed easily that, being unable to discipline Emmett, she used those syringes to stabilize him for a bit. So, someday the authorities, with the help of Bill, may have come to know about the situation and taken Emmett away for a better environment. So, this whole scenario describes Emmett’s situation pretty well. As he confronts himself in the end, he doesn’t really want a baby; he wants a mother whom he can hold close to.

Did Anya’s Mother abandon her too?

Anya used to be a gifted child who could write beautiful poetry. Her mother appreciated and celebrated her talent. Anya’s talent for writing is the most important thing to her mother, which is why she never took her swimming classes. Activities like these are nothing but a bonding period between a parent and a child. Anya avoided that chance. Later, when she goes through a tough time, her writing goes numb, and her mother starts seeing less of her. Anya seeks her mother’s validation throughout her life. This results in nothingness in their relationship.

Unlike Emmett, Anya had her mother’s love until she lost or perhaps was unable to restructure her talent. This feeling of not having the appreciation of her mother made her feel the necessity of becoming a mother. But, unfortunately, her body cannot have a child. This is saddening yet conclusive on the matter of why Anya wants to be a mother. In the end, she even admits the matter. Both Emmett and Anya have suffered the abandonment of their mothers, but in different ways, resulting in their different wants and needs.

Mother, May I? (2023) Movie Ending Explained:

What Happened to the Couple?

Anya finally finds herself after three nights of terrible pain and horror. She no longer has any sign of Tracy in her body. Emmett is still in a tough spot. He has already tried to persuade Anya that she is not Tracy, but now he needs to persuade himself. The events of the last three nights keep him from being sure. He saw Anya cook, dance, swim, and fold her clothes, all of which were new to him. How can he suddenly forget everything and think that Anya is back?

So he takes her outside to a lake and pushes her into the water to see if she can swim or not. He finds out later that Anya can’t swim, so he jumps into the lake to save her. Emmett and Anya finally play the game of “reverse chair” for the last time. Emmett tells Anya that he wants a mother, and Anya tells him that she wants to be a mother. Anya is holding Emmett close to her chest while also holding a syringe in the other hand. This makes me wonder if Anya really is possessed.

Well, open ends always leave room for guessing. We can’t say for sure what happened, but it looks like there are a few options. One of them is that we can believe that Anya is really possessed, and since Tracy is now in control of her body, she will punish Emmett the same way she always has. This explains why she had the syringe in her hand. If we think Anya is not possessed, then it’s hard to figure out why she’s holding the syringe. She thinks Emmett pushed her into the lake. Hence, she is holding the syringe to help him stay stable if something like this happens again.

Most of all, I’m interested in another option. From two different points of view, the story is told. The want is different from the need. When Anya was acting like Tracy, she once told Emmett that she needed to be a mother. She had no desire to have children. She just needed something to hold on to while her job as an artist was going down the drain. Now, Laurence Vannicelli’s skill is about to show up. Right after the lake thing, Anya is seen running away from Emmett. She pulls over. She is thinking about her decision to leave Emmett when she finds a bug in her car. Bill once told Anya that Tracy used to tell him she would be reincarnated as a bug for all the bad things she did in her life.

Anya knows that she can’t have a baby because of how her body works. She sees a bug, which makes her think of Tracy, and she chooses to act like Tracy. She knows the whole story. Of course, she knows how Tracy used to keep Emmett from getting too mad. Now, she’s going back to Emmett. She holds him close like Tracy would. She has the needle in her other hand in case Emmett goes bad. So, the last theory is that Anya isn’t possessed at all. Instead, she starts acting like Tracy so she can have a son like Emmett.

This makes her dream of becoming a mother come true. Emmett wants a woman’s love, and Anya makes him feel better about that. He also gets what he wants – a motherly love for an abandoned child.

Read More: 15 Great Psychological Crime Thrillers with Shocking Plot Twists


Mother, May I? (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Mother, May I? (2023) Movie Cast: Holland Roden, Kyle Gallner, Chris Mulkey
Mother, May I? (2023) Movie Genre: Horror/Mystery & thriller, Runtime: 1h 39m
Where to watch Mother, May I?

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