“Mother’s Instinct” is a crime thriller about two best friends, Alice and Celine. Celine and Alice, both mothers to young boys, see their perfect lives shattered by tragedy. Celine’s son Max dies in a fall, leaving her devastated and her marriage strained. Alice, haunted by survivor’s guilt from her childhood, becomes increasingly suspicious of Celine’s behavior. They try to work things through, but Celine has a goal: to be a mother, and she won’t stop at anything until she achieves it.

This article contains spoilers.

Mother’s Instinct (2024) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

The film starts on a cheery note as Celine picks up her son, Max, and Alice’s son, Theo, from school. They are happy together and sing a song the boys have been practicing for the school recital. The atmosphere starts to get mysterious as Alice sneaks into Celine’s house. Entering her house, Celine realizes something is off and opens the curtain, only to be surprised by her friends and family for her birthday.

Max and Theo sneak out and play in the backyard. However, Alice’s anxiety shoots up as Theo cannot have cookies since he is allergic to them. After putting the kids to bed, Alice, Celine, Simon, and Damian continue the party with alcohol and dance. Their conversations reveal that Celine cannot have another child as conceiving Max was complex, and Celine loves to be a mom. On the other hand, Alice gave birth to Theo quite easily, but Alice wants to get back to having a career.

Celine pushes Alice away

The following day, Celine informs Alice that Max is unwell and he won’t be attending school. Celine starts vacuuming the house, not knowing what Max is up to. In the garden, Alice is tending to her plants when she notices Max on the edge of the balcony trying to hang a birdhouse. Knowing the dangers of the situation, Alice begs Max to get off the balcony and calls Celine. To reach Max quickly, Alice tries to get through the hedges like the boys used to do. Alas, she is stuck and runs inside Celine’s house. Seeing a frantic Alice, Celine follows behind her, but it is too late as Max falls off the balcony and loses his life. All Celine does now is hold Max and weep.

Not knowing about Max, Theo is ready for school. Soon, Simon tells Theo about Max’s death. Later in the day, Theo is not home, and Alice looks for him everywhere and finds him talking to Celine. An instinct makes Alice call Theo back, but she tries to call out to Celine, who ignores her. At night, Theo realizes he has left his toy bunny in the backyard. Analyzing the situation, Alice cannot help but feel guilty for not doing enough to save Max. But Simon comforts her by saying it was a terrible accident.

During Max’s funeral, Theo sees the bunny inside Max’s coffin and tries to take it. Simon is furious, but Alice wonders why Celine would do this when she knows the bunny is Theo’s toy. A month later, Celine attends the recital at Theo’s school only to faint because of memories of Max. Alice comforts her, and Celine apologizes for pushing her away.

Alice reveals her secret to Celine

Mother's Instinct (2024) Movie Ending Explained
A still from Mother’s Instinct (2024)

After their conversation, Alice and their family visit Celine to comfort her in such challenging times. While Celine is trying to cope, Damian is hurting and hugs Alice to seek comfort. Later that night, Celine confesses that Damian blames her for not paying attention to Max, and Alice assures her that it was an accident. To help Celine further, Alice shares that she was in the car when her parents met with an accident, and she always felt guilty as she thought she could have done something. Alice also reveals that was when her anxiety started. After Theo was born, she couldn’t hold him for months, and she had to get help. Only after the hospital visit did Alice learn to separate grief from guilt.

What happens during Theo’s birthday party?

After Theo arrives home from school, Celine asks Alice if Theo can come home for an hour as she has a surprise for him. Unable to decline the invite, Alice sends Theo over. After a while, Alice notices Theo standing on Celine’s balcony, where Max was before he died. Alice gets overly suspicious and goes through the hedges to stop Theo. However, Alice notices a change in Celine’s face. After the chaos, Alice feels Celine set the whole thing up to test Alice to see if she can save Theo when she could not save Max.

It’s Theo’s birthday, and he wants Celine to be at the party. Not knowing how to refuse her son’s wishes, Alice invites Celine. However, during the party, Alice draws a boundary with Celine. At the same time, Grandma Jean is unhappy to see Celine at Theo’s birthday just after Max’s death. Celine’s face is pale, but she brings Grandma Jean some tea. Unable to understand anybody’s behavior, Celine asks Alice if she has done something wrong, and Alice confronts her about the balcony situation. Taken aback, Celine is in tears after hearing the accusation, and seeing her state, Alice apologizes. After the party, Grandma Jean dies because of a heart attack.

Alice’s theories

Alice is suspicious, goes behind Simon’s back, and asks the doctor to perform an autopsy. The results of the autopsy make Alice more suspicious as there aren’t any traces of medication in Grandma Jean’s bloodstream. While tending to the garden, Alice finds Grandma Jean’s medicine box and hides it in her nightstand. Later that day, at Celine’s house, Alice asks Theo not to eat anything until dinner, but Celine crosses the boundary and asks him to check the kitchen for food. Suddenly, Theo comes out coughing as he has eaten a cookie, causing his throat to close. At the hospital, Celine and Damian arrive, but Alice pounces on Celine, asking her to leave as she is the reason for Theo’s allergic reaction.

Unable to handle the situation anymore, Simon takes Alice aside and asks her what is happening. Anxiously, Alice explains that Celine has set the whole thing up by sending Theo to the kitchen, tempting him to eat the cookies, and says Celine had also swapped Grandma Jean’s pills, and that is why she died. Angered, Simon takes her to the car, shows her Grandma Jean’s pills, and asks Alice to get it together as they cannot go through with the hospital visits again.

Theo tries to kill himself

Mother's Instinct (2024) Movie Ending Explained
Another still from Mother’s Instinct (2024)

Before leaving for work, Simon tells Alice that he will make an appointment to visit the psychiatrist as she is losing her mind. Nevertheless, Alice is still suspicious and sneaks into Celine’s house to try and find the pills. Unfortunately, Celine has forgotten something. When she returns home, she realizes something strange. Celine checks the basement and leaves.

Seeing the right opportunity, Alice leaves the cellar, but Celine catches her. Without hesitation, Alice accuses Celine of killing Grandma Jean. Later, Alice brings Theo home, and he finds a present from Celine at their doorstep. Afraid and angry, Alice throws the present at Celine’s door. In a while, Alice realizes Theo is not home, rushes to Celine’s house, and finds Theo on the balcony’s edge, ready to take a plunge. Unable to withstand all the fighting, Theo wants to be with Max and Grandma Jean. However, Celine convinces Theo to get off, and Alice and Celine apologize to each other.

Mother’s Instinct (2024) Movie Ending Explained:

Why does Celine kill Alice and Simon?

Good News awaits as Simon tells Alice that he has found a house and they will move in two weeks. Alice and Celine meet for tea, and Alice informs her that they will be moving in two weeks as it is better for Theo. While Alice is happy, Celine is unhappy as Damian expresses that Celine has been clinging to Theo and forgotten about their son Max. That night, Celine, filled with bitterness, makes Damian pass out from chloroform and cuts his wrist, making it look like suicide.

The following day, Alice and Simon hear about Damian and bring Celine home. As Alice takes Theo to school, Celine watches from the room, eyes filled with hope. Later that night, Alice brings Celine’s clothes and finds the key to the pharmaceutical cabinet. Meanwhile, Simon is busy watching TV and drinking alcohol, and Celine puts Theo under chloroform, calling it a magic potion that puts people to sleep.

All of Alice’s suspicions come true as Alice finds chloroform in the pharmaceutical cabinet, runs home, and finds Simon asleep with his liquor glass. Alice then rushes to Theo, but Celine tries to put Alice under the chloroform. Despite being under, Alice whacks Celine and carries Theo. Unaffected, Celine watches Alice hold Theo just like she had held Max. After a while, Celine uses the chloroform on Alice. As a final act, Celine leaves the gas valve open so Alice and Simon can die. At the end of the film, the judge asks Theo if he is okay to accept Celine as his adoptive mother, and Theo agrees. Killing everyone who stood in her way, Celine now spends time with Theo on the beach.

Towards the end, Theo has no choice but to accept Celine as his mother, especially since Celine has gone out of her way to build his trust and bond. Despite Alice’s motherly instincts kicking in, nobody believed her because of her history of mental health issues and the pitiful state of Celine after losing her only child. Celine is nothing but a serial killer, as she killed people because she just wanted to be a mom. Part of the problem was also because of Damian, as he was never supportive after Max’s death and blamed Celine instead for the boy’s demise. In the end, Celine gets what she wants as she is a mom to Theo, who is unaware of the truth about his parent’s death.

Read More: 10 Best Jessica Chastain Performances

Trailer:

Mother’s Instinct (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
The Cast of Mother’s Instinct (2024) Movie: Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Josh Charles, Anders Danielsen Lie
Mother’s Instinct (2024) Movie Genre: Mystery & Thriller | Runtime: 1h 34m
Where to watch Mothers' Instinct

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