The twist itself is a nod to The Sixth Sense: Lukas, the paler child who doesn’t have to cut his hair to stay looking the same, is a ghost or, in my opinion, just a hallucination. This is hinted at right away when the bandaged mother refuses to acknowledge him, but it isn’t directly talked about until things have gone way too far. What exactly is going on here?
In a way, like The Babadook, Goodnight, Mommy is an exploration of the horrors of the alienation of grief and isolated family life. A twin brother was lost in an unspecified accident, and the mother has had to undergo corrective surgery on her face. She is still the same mother, but she is drastically changed by the trauma. Her personality is simply not the same. She snaps, she goes on rampages through her sons’ room, she pretends to be asleep. Instead of cooking, she orders in a year’s supply of frozen pizza.
The mother is having a rough time, but instead of having sympathy for his mother, 10-year-old Elias turns on her. His violence is a horrible manifestation at his rage of his world being turned upside down, first with the loss of his brother, and now with the loss of the mother he once knew. The way he reels out of control is hard to relate to, but it is successful in invoking terror.
While the trailer crafted its own story: a silent mother who may be otherworldly. The mother in film isn’t silent at all, and soon enough takes off her scary bandages. The monster in her is spun up in the mind of her child, who has nightmares about cutting her open to find roaches, and an ritual in the woods.
Once Elias, encouraged by the spectral Lukas, decides she is an imposter, and she has to pay, the torture of Mommy is worse than any nightmare. Elias seems convinced that his violence will pay off somehow, that it will bring back his mother, but once she confronts the truth with him about his brother’s death, things have come to the point where the he sees the only way out is to join them.
The ending cuts to their posh country house alight in flames, and the figure of a woman walking out. Then, a shot to the three of them together again, at last, suggesting that they’ve all turned to ghosts. My interpretation of the film doesn’t find this visual of ghosts reunited satisfying if taken literally, but I think it may just be Elias’ last hallucination before he dies in the fire. I don’t believe Lukas is a ghost, but that he’s a projection of Elias’ disturbed mind, and Elias’ resolution, is only a resolution for him in the last moments of his life.
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