The film introduces Michael and Madeline Matheson, a couple who are trying to conceive a child. Vivian, Michael’s mother, tries to convince them to visit Dr. Sohn, an obstetrician. But Madeline prefers her midwife, Patricia. After experiencing chest pain, Madeline is rushed to the hospital where Dr. Sohn tries to induce labor. Patricia defies this based on Madeline’s bloodwork. On their way home, the couple encounters an accident that kills Michael and the unborn baby. Madeline carries the baby to term. When she is born she is a stillborn, however, by some miracle the baby is somehow alive. The baby seems normal until she is not. When Grace is breastfed she vomits the milk because of her inability to digest it. She begins to have a penchant for blood and attracts flies because of her foul odor. She cannot bathe as she begins to bleed once in contact with the water. Vivian asks Dr. Sohn for help in order to convict Madeline as an unfit mother to steal the baby for herself. Dr. Sohn visits Madeline where he is killed after Madeline attacks him. Vivian arrives and attempts to kidnap the baby. She attacks Madeline with a hammer, however, Madeline rips out her neck with her teeth. In the last scene, we see Patricia driving in an RV with Madeline. Madeline reveals that Grace has been teething and we see her breast ripped off.
Some personal opinions I have on the film: Grace is one of the weirder films we have watched in class. I think it is an interesting take on motherhood and how much sacrifices mothers can make. I personally think motherhood is something one can understand only when one is a mother.
Barbara Creed’s article is about abjection. Abjection is something that shakes the system – it is not confined in the rules of society. Many scenes of the abject is seen in horror, such as in Grace. The ultimate in abjection is that of the corpse, we seen this in the form of Dr. Sohn’s body after Madeline’s attack. Many things we reject in society were scene in the film, this is in the form of vomit, blood, amniotic fluid, and breast milk. Horror films highlight the abject.
Another form of abjection that is seen in the film is how Madeline often refuses the conventional. Madeline refused conventional medicine and preferred the more ‘natural’ birthing method. She also refused hospitals. She was also a vegan – a lifestyle that most people do not follow. She did not blindly follow her mother-in-laws (elders) demands. Aside from Madeline we saw many forms of abjection in the film such as when Vivian and her husband had sex. In the current society, older people having sex does not seem normal and is usually an activity attributed to younger couples. Another abjection is the relationships of Patricia – lesbian relationships are not considered ‘normal’ in a heteronormative society.
In a patriarchal society, motherhood is a great abjection. Michael already had his own life and yet Vivian still controlled his decisions. As Michael tries to move on with his life his mother, Vivian, becomes abject. Vivian still tries to retain her sway over her son. Milking or breastfeeding was an act done by the mothers in the film. Currently, breastfeeding is an issue. This is because breasts are a symbolism of women. Even though it is an act that is natural – it is no different than eating, it is being made into a big deal by many people. It is also a symbolism of motherhood – representative of power, a threat against male dominance.
Another abject in the film is the way that Vivian and Madeline acted. Mothers are often portrayed as the most gentle and the most caring of people. In this film we see that in a desperate attempt to regain motherhood they have subjected to violence.
The ultimate abjection is in the form of Grace who was a living corpse. Grace had already died in the womb and was a stillborn. However, because of her mother’s love she was able to be brought back to life. This symbolizes the fragility of the law of life – something can be dead and be brought back to life. Grace’s existence was ambiguous. Was Grace alive? Was she dead? Her need for blood and how flies were attracted to her like a corpse is evidence for the later. However, the fact that she ate at all is characteristic of life. Grace was undead – an abject to the normal that is life.
Barbara Creed, “Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).