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Mother, May I? Movie Explained- Was Anya Possessed By Tracy, And What Does The Ending Mean?

Parents and children often have complicated relationships. Even the best family units can be riddled with complexities. Resentments, miscommunications, and misperceptions are common. Romantic couples are equally rife with potential trouble. When one or more parties in said relationship are ill-suited for their role, things get even messier. A young couple dealing with their fair share of trauma is forced to face their childhood traumas in a twisted psychological game that might be the product of a disturbed mind or a ghost looking for redemption in Laurence Vannicelli’s Mother, May I?

Anya(Holland Roden) and Emmett(Kyle Gallner) are an engaged couple who have traveled to Emmett’s childhood home to settle his late mother’s estate. He has been estranged from his mother since he was very young and would like nothing more than to move on. Both Emmett and Anya have problems. He has anger and abandonment issues, and she is crippled by self-doubt and lack of love. Their relationship is tumultuous at best. They both want a child for similar horrible reasons while simultaneously doubting the other’s abilities and needs to be a parent.

Almost immediately, it’s apparent there is something very weird going on. A picture of Emmett’s mother, Tracy, looks eerily similar to Anya, and the couple is on edge. She wants to force him to talk about his feelings using a therapy technique where they answer questions like each other. He’s reluctant, thinking she is trying to manipulate him just as Anya’s mother manipulated her. She is desperate to prove that he wants to have a child with her because he loves her and not because he wants to replace a childhood he wished he had. She’s convinced he wants to rewrite his history through a child. To say things are toxic is an understatement.

After a night of taking hallucinogenic mushrooms, Anya wakes up behaving like Emmet’s dead mother Tracy. To be fair, she started behaving oddly that night. She collapsed in the yard after performing a strange dance sequence that she would never have done otherwise. He puts her to bed and wakes to find she is still channeling his dead mother. Everything about her has changed. Anya used to favor a natural look. She didn’t wear makeup and wore her hair loose. She didn’t smoke or cook and wasn’t a fan of cleaning.

The next morning, she was now meticulously put together and chain-smoked like a fiend. She also treated Emmett like a son instead of a fiance. Additionally, her mannerisms had changed. She now had pierced ears which she put Tracy’s earrings in, and even changed her voice, affecting a nasally grittiness. As her behavior becomes more and more alarming, Emmett begins to fall back into destructive patterns. Has Tracy possessed Anya, and should some people not be parents? Here’s everything you need to know about the ambiguous ending of Mother May I?

The ending of Mother, May I?

For days Anya acts like Tracy. She dresses like her, moves like her, speaks like her, and treats Emmett like a wayward child. Understandably it’s confusing and difficult for him to handle. Even more alarming, Anya can now swim when just days before, she couldn’t swim at all and was terrified of the water. At first, Emmett is convinced this is all an act until, after three days, Anya seems to snap out of it with no recollection of the last three days. She removes Tracy’s earrings out of her ears in a subtle piece of grisly body horror. Anya’s ears weren’t pierced, but Tracy’s were, and the exacting, self-absorbed woman was exactly the same as a ghost.

There are a lot of clues throughout that Anya is not pretending. She probably wouldn’t have mutilated her ears purposefully, and her complete transformation, including handwriting, would be very difficult to pull off. The final scene makes it very clear Tracy still lives in the house and will be with Anya and Emmett forever. Once the couple finally admits their true feelings, Anya, guided by Tracy’s hands, injects him with a tranquilizer that his mother used to give him, and he collapses into her arms. A mother has a child, and a child has a mother.

Emmett begs Anya to inject him, which she does at the end several times, including the end frame of Mother, May I? Tracy’s hands are seen moving Anya’s around Emmett’s head. We next see Tracy dancing in the darkness as if she can finally find peace now that she knows she has someone to mother her child.

Mother, May I?

Was Anya possessed by Tracy?

Almost certainly, Anya was possessed by Tracy. The neighbor, Bill, told Anya that Tracy said she would be reincarnated as an insect because of her terrible deeds in life. Many times a moth or a cricket is seen just before Tracy reasserts herself. We ultimately are left not knowing if Anya will share her body with Tracy or if Tracy has decided to be content to watch and assist rather than possess. It is curious to note, however, that Anya means Mother in Hungarian. During a nasty argument, Emmett accuses Anya of being reckless with their unborn child, but he misread the sonogram pictures.

Anya learned recently she can’t have children. She wasn’t pregnant and was devastated to find out she never could have them. Her need to have a child was to give her life purpose. If she could care for a kid, her professional failings would be forgotten. The fact that she was a woman who needed a child and looked very similar to Emmett’s mother likely made her vulnerable to Tracy’s possession and speaks volumes about Emmett’s mental status. Needing to prove Anya was pretending to be Tracy, he pushed her into the water in a Salem Witch Trial type of test and had to jump in after her when she drowned. Emmett chose a woman who looked like his mother to love proving Oedipal Complexes are real, and Tracy needed a woman with similar core problems.

Losing yourself in another in Mother, May I?

The importance of losing yourself in someone else comes up repeatedly. The psychological tool they use of trading chairs dovetails with the possession of Anya by Tracy. Even the idea of becoming a parent is often viewed as a loss of one’s single self into a caregiver. A mother or father can still be a person outside of a parent, but especially for women, pregnancy can feel like a parasite is growing unchecked inside you. Becoming a mother is terrifying and utterly strange. These two, in many ways, have lost themselves in their trauma, parental expectations, and self-loathing.

Anya and Emmett want things they can’t have. She wishes she had a mother who loved her and cared for her beyond her gifted mind, and Emmett desperately wishes he had a mother to care for him, even if that care was twisted and warped.

Anya admits out on the lake that she wanted a child to give her life meaning. She is filled with self-doubt about her writing and thinks a child will give her purpose. Emmett admits to remembering his mother as absentee. He needed a caregiver, and Anya tells him that Tracy didn’t abandon him. Both of them have shaped their identities around what others did to them. Anya’s mother became disinterested in her once she stopped being gifted, and Emmett remembered his childhood wrong.

The legal documents and pictures Anya finds in the basement seem to indicate Tracy abused Emmett, and the authorities took him away from her for his own safety. As a child, he was a wild child that she couldn’t control. It is likely that they both were prone to violent outbursts. Striking your son and drugging them regularly are traditionally not looked at as good parenting skills. Anya’s mother wasn’t physically abusive but certainly emotionally so. These two never had a chance to form identities outside of their trauma.

There is less ambiguity the second time I watched Mother, May I? Bill sees Tracy hovering over Anya. Emmett senses and craves his mother’s warped love. Anya is willing to give up her difficult life to nurture a child, even if that child is her fiance, and she has to let a ghost possess her to do it. These are people in crisis. Everything from the moth symbolism to ghostly sets of hands is designed to point out the truth. Anya has been possessed by Tracy and maybe again in the future.

Where does the need to be a parent and the desire to have a parent begin and end? In some ways, Mother, May I? is like Phantom Thread in that Emmett’s need to be cared for trumps his need to be healthy, and Anya’s need to have a child overrides her desire to be an autonomous person. When the pair have an open conversation about their needs, it is clear they each have what the other desires. Now that they have admitted their problems and been honest with one another, but more importantly themselves, they can move on.

Unfortunately, as Anya hugs Emmett she holds a syringe in her hand indicating she is ready to take the same destructive pattern Tracy started. Wants and needs are tricky. Often the want outweighs the need, and we confuse the two for each other. Some mistakes can’t be fixed, and not all traumas can be worked through, especially when we are our own worst enemy.

Mother, May I is streaming on VOD everywhere now.