Goodnight Mommy (Ich seh, Ich seh) is a 2014 Austrian German psychological thriller directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. The story is told from the perspective of young twins who see their mother returning from reconstructive surgery, and her face is bandaged up. Soon they suspect that the woman might not be their mother at all. The film is creepy, and at times gory, so it’s not a casual watch, be prepared. The movie leaves you with many questions, so here’s the plot analysis and the ending of the 2014 movie Goodnight Mommy explained; spoilers ahead.
- 1 Contents
- 2 Goodnight Mommy: What is it about? (Synopsis)
- 3 Goodnight Mommy: Plot Explanation
- 3.1 Goodnight Mommy: Who is the Mom? Is she the real Mother?
- 3.2 Goodnight Mommy: Why did she have the surgery?
- 3.3 Goodnight Mommy: Is Lukas Dead?
- 3.4 Goodnight Mommy: What was the accident? What happened?
- 3.5 Mother and Elias
- 3.6 Mother Suspicious Behaviour
- 3.7 Goodnight Mommy: Who killed the cat?
- 3.8 What’s with the lighter? Why is Elias (Lukas) so good with setting fires?
- 3.9 Forest Scene: Is Mother a Witch? What’s with the bugs in the film?
- 3.10 Why does the priest bring the kids back home?
- 3.11 Who’s the lady in the photograph?
- 3.12 Why is the colour of Mother’s eyes different? Where is her mole?
- 3.13 Why can Mother remember Lukas’ favourite song?
- 4 Goodnight Mommy: Ending Explained
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Goodnight Mommy: What is it about? (Synopsis)
The plot follows a broken family where each one struggles with their own demons and fails to communicate, which causes matters to escalate, leading to a blood-soaked end. At one point, this was a happy family of four – Mother, Father, and a pair of twin children. The parents separate, and the Mother is with her two kids, Lukas and Elias. Sadly, Lukas dies, and Elias and Mother are shattered. Elias, unable to move on, begins imagining Lukas and blocks out the memory of his death. Initially, Mother plays along with Elias’ delusions but eventually stops.
Mother wants to break away from her old life and craves a fresh start, so she opts for facial cosmetic surgery. But she doesn’t seem to have explained this to Elias. Neither does she sit down to discuss Lukas’ death with Elias. Non-communication cascades into disaster. Elias assumes Mother is an imposter who’s refusing to acknowledge Lukas. Elias ties, tortures and eventually kills her (and possibly himself) to reunite with her and his brother in death.
Goodnight Mommy: Plot Explanation
The film leaves us with a few pressing questions, so let’s get them out of the way. Here’s an interview with directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala where they break down the film’s theme. I’ve taken out key discussions from this interview to explain Goodnight Mommy.
Goodnight Mommy: Who is the Mom? Is she the real Mother?
The lady in the house is the real Mother. She is not an impersonator with devious intentions. A loving family in a beautiful home was destroyed because of a divorce and a son’s death. The parents of Lukas and Elias separate, and this causes Mother to box herself in. Besides this, she also deals with her son’s loss, causing her to spiral into depression. Mother was once a successful TV show host, and it appears that she is no longer one.
Goodnight Mommy: Why did she have the surgery?
All Mother is trying to do is get a fresh start, and she does this by getting plastic surgery. We have visuals of her face being marked up for this cosmetic surgery. Also, towards the end, we hear Mother say, “I’ll play along again. I’ll talk to Lukas again.” – While we’re made to think that Mother’s face was disfigured or burnt, that’s not the case as “the accident” referred to in the movie doesn’t involve her. There was clearly a period of time between Lukas’ death and the surgery when Mother ‘played along’. As part of the fresh start, Mother also plans to sell the house and move to a different place. She has also listed herself on a dating site; we see a video introducing herself.
In the interview, the makers have stated that the film was inspired by a reality show which gave mothers, from various families, do-overs and how the children would be in dismay looking at their new, beautiful and completely unrecognizable mothers.
Goodnight Mommy: Is Lukas Dead?
Yes, the movie makes it quite clear that Lukas is dead. Elias only imagines him for the most part of the film. There are enough hints in Goodnight Mommy for this.
- Mother serves breakfast only for Elias.
- While both kids are talking during their guessing game, Mother hears only Elias.
- Mother tells Elias, “It’s not your fault Lukas died“.
- In the end, Mother says she can’t see Lukas.
Goodnight Mommy: What was the accident? What happened?
The accident is the drowning of Lukas in the lake; it is not a car accident. As audiences, we put together the Mother’s facial bandages and the word “accident” to imagine an automobile accident. It wasn’t. Before the title of the film, we see both twins playing in the lake and counting. What they’re doing is trying to hold their breath underwater. After a while, we see bubbles, and Elias calls out to Lukas, who drowns in this scene. This is the accident. Elias seems to be distracted, and in that short while, Lukas drowns.
Mother and Elias
In the interview, the directors mention how lack of communication is one of the film’s themes. That if Mother had had more conversations with her surviving son about his dead brother, and her need for cosmetic surgery, things wouldn’t have gotten so bad. But unfortunately, she was separated and depressed and needed help herself.
While not shown in the movie, Mother initially plays along with Elias, acting as if Lukas was still around. For Elias, Lukas was real, but not for the Mother. She just found playing along to be easier as she could avoid the tough talk with Elias and not face Lukas’ death. Unfortunately, the easy route she takes fortifies the notion that Lukas is still with him, leading to schizophrenia of sorts. After a while, Mother grows tired of acting and stops acknowledging a Lukas. At about the same time, Mother decides that she wants to move ahead with her life by making a few changes – one of them being a minor cosmetic surgery.
Mother Suspicious Behaviour
Right after the title, we see a car driving up home. I’d reckon that this is the Father dropping Elias home, as Mother is back from her cosmetic surgery. Right off the bat, Mother is in a crappy mood because the Father has sent Elias home covered in mud; she takes it out on Elias.
Over the days, her behaviour is erratic and distant. She wants to rest and has ordered a ton of frozen food for her and Elias. She refuses to play along and talk to Lukas. It gets to a point where she even beats and threatens Elias to stop talking to his [dead] brother.
All of this sets Elias on a destructive path where he believes this lady is an imposter. Through the second half of the movie, you’ll notice that Elias wants to accept that she’s his real Mother, but Lukas’ persona constantly introduces doubts.
Goodnight Mommy: Who killed the cat?
The primary question is – is the cat real? Elias finds the cat in a catacomb filled with broken human skeletons. Likely, such a place was only imagined by Elias, and therefore the cat is part of Elias’ fabrication. The cat was neither killed by Mother nor the kid(s); it simply didn’t exist. Elias (and Lukas) perceived it dead because it feeds into their theory that Mother is an evil imposter.
What’s with the lighter? Why is Elias (Lukas) so good with setting fires?
I don’t think any parent would be comfortable with their kids keeping a lighter with them. It’s just dangerous. I don’t believe it has to do with Elias’s prior incident of setting fire to the house. We don’t have any evidence from the film that their home once had a fire accident or a previous one did. Elias is adept with a lot of things. Apparently, the kid has a lot of time on him to figure out elaborate torture methods. Figuring using fuel to light up a big fire is a low hanging fruit for the champ.
Forest Scene: Is Mother a Witch? What’s with the bugs in the film?
The Mother is not a witch. Those scene we see where she walks into the forest and where Elias cuts her to see bugs crawl out from inside her are all part of his dreams. They aren’t real.
About the bugs, Elias is really messed up in his head. Subliminally, he blames himself for the death of Lucas. I guess the creepy crawlies represent his fears and anxiety; he’s bottling the bugs up just like his feelings. Even his wallpaper has ants all over them; it could be playing on him subconsciously. The makers also talk about how cockroaches are the ugly things that lie beneath all shiny surfaces. In Goodnight Mommy, they are a metaphor for what’s crawling beneath the surface of this family’s life in an otherwise beautiful home.
Why does the priest bring the kids back home?
The priest is not in cahoots with the Mother. He’s just being responsible and bringing back a runaway kid. He knows the pain Mother is going through.
Unfortunately, Elias decides to take matters into his own hands and tie up and torture Mother, who he believes is an impersonator.
Who’s the lady in the photograph?
As Mother mentions, the lady in the photograph is a friend who used to dress up alike. If this lady in the house was a demonic twin, then there wouldn’t be a fun photo of the two of them. If the Mother did have a twin, there is no reason for the sister to impersonate and take over the house. Also, using bandages to do that would just be a silly approach. Bottom line, there is no conspiracy here.
Why is the colour of Mother’s eyes different? Where is her mole?
Cosmetic surgery – it appears that the change in her eye colour and removal of the mole was part of her operation. We are shown a scene where we see Mother’s red-eye in the mirror. Why does she lie about the contacts? I think Mother is hesitating to tell her son that she wanted to get surgery to look better, possibly because she thinks he won’t get it. Fundamentally this goes back to not communicating.
Why can Mother remember Lukas’ favourite song?
This looked a little suspicious initially, but if you think about it, for kids, favourite is something seasonal. And it changes quite rapidly. They really never cling to one single tune for very long. So it’s an impossible question.
No matter what Mother says, Elias will deny it because the portion of his mind that’s playing Lukas is convinced that this lady is a fake.
Goodnight Mommy: Ending Explained
Goodnight Mommy’s ending has Elias glueing Mother to the floor and setting her and the house on fire. She dies a horrific death, and we can only assume that Elias dies too. We see a woman walking our of the burning house (circled in red in the picture above) – Mother’s dead soul. In the end, Elias reunites with Lukas and Mother in the afterlife. If Elias didn’t die and somehow got out, it equally sad as he’s a crazed kid who’s all alone and will only hurt others and himself going forward.
What did you think about Goodnight Mommy? Do drop a comment below.
Barry is a technologist who helps start-ups build successful products. His love for movies and production has led him to write his well-received film explanation and analysis articles to help everyone appreciate the films better. He’s regularly available for a chat conversation on his website and consults on storyboarding from time to time.
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