‘Matriarch’ is a horror film that tells the story of Laura Birch (Jemima Rooper), a young successful ad executive who overdoses on cocaine but somehow mysteriously survives. Feeling overwhelmed by her circumstances, she calls her estranged mother, Celia (Kate Dickie), who lives in the countryside and whom Laura hasn’t seen for years, Celia asks her daughter to come home, and Laura — after much hesitation — accepts the offer, hoping that the time in the village she grew up will help her deal with her current issues. However, once she gets to the secluded settlement, she realizes that something is disturbingly wrong with the place. Moreover, her time in the village and the company of her mother remind her why she originally left her home. Here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘Matriarch.’ SPOILERS AHEAD.
Matriarch Plot Synopsis
In the prologue of ‘Matriarch,’ we see a man walking toward a pond. He is nude, having taken off all his clothes and leaving them hanging on a branch. The entire scene is shot from the man’s back; we never see his face. He wades through the mud before submerging himself into the water that doesn’t even reach his waist. The implication here is that the man takes his own life. We later learn that this man is Laura’s father.
The next scene is set several years later in a city. Despite the success she has achieved in her professional life, Laura is staggeringly lonely in the personal one. She is also a cocaine addict and horribly self-destructive. Her boss sees the daughter she lost in Laura and tries to help the younger woman deal with her addictions, but her attempts only have adverse effects. Laura struggles under the immense pressure of her job as an ad executive and because of the trauma of her upbringing, which we learn later.
One day, right before she is to head out for work, Laura overdoses and dies. Suddenly, there is water on the floor — black as tar. It enters her body through her mouth. Meanwhile, surrounded by complete darkness, Laura sees a hand reaching out to her. She has a vision of a young mother from her neighborhood eating the flesh of her child and wakes up.
After learning that Celia has tried to contact her, Laura wonders how her mother found out where she was. On the verge of being overwhelmed by her current circumstances, she decides to return to the village she grew up in. Laura didn’t have many happy memories of her childhood. Celia was cruel, emotionally abusive, and not particularly motherly. Laura left home as soon as she could and hasn’t returned since.
Desperate to escape what her life has become in the city, Laura calls her mother. Over the phone, Celia seems so kind and genuine. She asks her daughter to return home, promising her that it will get better. And Laura — having no other option — decides to go back.
Once Laura is back in the village, she starts to notice that something is off about the place. Her mother and her neighbors don’t seem to have aged even a bit, and all of the older people she remembers from the town are still alive. Laura runs into Abi, her girlfriend from her youth, and their romance begins to rekindle. However, what Laura doesn’t know is that Celia is putting sedatives in her drinks. One night, Celia drags an unconscious Laura out of the house and toward the greenhouse her husband built, but Laura wakes up before Celia manages to take her there, prompting the latter to flee.
Matriarch Ending: Is Laura Dead? Why Does Laura Sacrifice Herself?
After Laura survives the overdose, her body seems to fall apart. She not only begins to experience hallucinations, she starts to bleed from the nose as well. Her condition starts to deteriorate further after she returns home. A dark patch appears on her arm, and it terrifies her.
Laura later discovers that Celia is the leader of a cult, made up of all local people except Abi’s father, who is a devout Christian. During their rituals, she feeds the people of the village the blood from her breasts. And this is why none of the people in the village has died yet. The source of her power is a goddess trapped in her husband’s greenhouse. Celia reveals that her husband sacrificed himself to the goddess after he was unable to have a child with her. Laura is the child of the goddess born from Celia’s womb.
However, Celia realized that the power she was siphoning off the goddess had receded significantly, so she reached out to Laura, intending to sacrifice the goddess’ own daughter to her so her power would be replenished. In the climactic scene, Abi helps Celia drag Laura to the greenhouse. It turns out that Abi was diagnosed with cancer, and Celia healed her. But now, with Celia’s power greatly diminishing, Abi’s cancer is back. They throw Laura inside the white line marking the goddess’ trap. However, the goddess doesn’t harm her. Meanwhile, Abi’s father shows up with a gun. When he finds out that his daughter’s remission wasn’t a Christian miracle, he stabs himself with a gardening tool. Laura grabs the gun and shoots at the white line, breaking the trap and freeing the goddess, who vanishes.
Laura later kills Celia in the church she has created for herself in front of her dying followers. As the film ends, Laura walks into the pond just as her father did in the prologue of the movie. The pond seems to be sacred to the goddess. We can assume that by sacrificing herself in the pond, Laura attempts to unite with her real mother, the goddess, and even her father.
What is the Monster?
The monster in ‘Matriarch’ is not really a monster but a goddess. In various sites, the character is identified simply as the goddess, portrayed by Anna Frost. Given that the story is set in the British Isles and the title of the film is ‘Matriarch,’ the goddess depicted in the movie can potentially be Danu, the Celtic mother goddess, the namesake of the Tuatha dé Danann (“people of the goddess Danu”), the legendary company of Irish deities.
However, in an October 2022 interview with Geek Girl Authority, Steiner revealed that the goddess in the film is a female version of a monster, the Worm Eater.”The Worm Eater was the original type of matriarch I’ve drawn on several times over the years and is a demonic, anti-father who menaces his son at night with this mouthful of worms and weird tentacle thing. He wanted to be involved in this. But when he came into the arena, he became female,” the filmmaker explained. According to Steiner, he later realized that with the goddess, Laura, and Celia, he has inadvertently recreated the triple goddess archetype of the mother, maiden, and crone, respectively.
Read More: Is Matriarch Based on a Book?