‘Birth/Rebirth’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Does Lila Come Back To Life?


Laura Moss’ debut feature, Birth/Rebirth revolves around two opposite characters: Dr. Rose Casper, a hospital pathologist who is mostly cold and solely focused on her work with barely any social skills, and maternity nurse Celie Morales, whose comforting presence and empowering words soothe her patients. While Casper’s work involves studying the dead, Celie is responsible for helping women give birth. We have two women at the center, dealing with the two ends of mortal existence. Their worlds are vastly different, and even though they worked at the same hospital, they never interacted with one another. That was before Celie Morales’ daughter, Lila, died of bacterial meningitis.

Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Birth/Rebirth is a modern interpretation of the text with a female scientist at the center. The Frankenstein angle foreshadows the possible threat that lurks around questionable scientific experimentation. 

Spoiler Alert

What Happened To Lila Morales?

Birth/Rebirth is mostly body horror through medical procedures. The film mostly focuses on the female body and the process of reproduction. It encompasses the many horrors that pregnant women experience from the moment they enter the hospital. The process requires complete surrender of oneself to a group of experts without any emotional attachment. Celie Morales did her best to support women going through labor. The way she spoke on behalf of a patient when a male doctor decided to opt for an episiotomy reflects how the presence of another woman in the procedure can change the result. Celie had a packed day at work, and she could not contact her daughter after her phone broke. Lila was not well that morning, and Celie’s neighbor Pauline was looking after her. By the time she reached home, Lila had been admitted to the hospital. Celie was devastated upon finding out that her daughter had succumbed to bacterial meningitis. She blamed herself for being absent when her daughter needed her the most.

All Celie wanted was to take a last look at her daughter, and she entered the pathology room to gather information. Rose advised her to call the medical examiner. Rose’s peculiar behavior and her carrying a huge suitcase to her car caught Celie’s attention, though, at the time, she did not think much about it. The medical examiner informed Celie that they did not have Lila’s body. Celie tracked down Rose, and her unwillingness to answer her questions made Celie all the more suspicious of her. She waited outside Rose’s apartment and forcefully entered to find Lila lying on a bed. Rose explained that she was performing an experiment on Lila. Since she had a similar genetic profile as Lila, she started a procedure that could reanimate a dead body. From the age of six, Rose developed an interest in studying the process of regeneration after watching a starfish grow back its limb. Since then, she has been researching ways in which humans could also repair their damaged cells and come back to life. Lila was on a ventilator when Celie found her at Rose’s apartment. Celie did not protest at all and instead started living at Rose’s apartment and took on duties to make sure that her daughter made it through the experiment. Celie was desperate to have her daughter back, and she was ready to go to any extent for it.

Was Rosa’s Experiment Successful?

Rose Casper did not have the time or the will to socialize; she had dedicated her life to the experiment. Rose was in search of the perfect subject to experiment on, and Lila’s genetic profile matched her requirements. Rose used a serum that was derived from the fetus that resulted in regeneration and, therefore, kept Lila’s heart beating. Before coming across Lila, Rose had impregnated herself with sperm collected from a random man she met at a bar. She forced her body to go through changes to contribute to the experiment, and it was not the first time that she did so. She kept the fetus in a jar and used the fluid to develop the serum. Lila was taken off the ventilator, and to Celie’s surprise, her daughter was still breathing. Lila was recovering better than Rose had expected, but a major setback led to desperate, questionable moves.

One day at work, Rose started bleeding and eventually went unconscious. When she woke up at the hospital, she was informed that an infection had developed in her cervix and throughout her reproductive system, leading to its removal. Not being able to conceive meant the end of the experiment. The liquid in the jar was ruined by the time Rose returned home, and she felt helpless when she found out that Lila had come to her senses. She was recovering faster than expected, and Rose did not know how to keep the system running. They needed a way to create the serum, and the next best option was to extract amniotic fluid from a compatible pregnant woman.

After searching the hospital database, they came across the perfect profile. Even after learning that the patient, Emily Parker, had been trying to conceive for three years, all Celie cared about was making sure her daughter continued to live. For the next few months, Emily Parker received inconclusive results, and the monthly tests continued. Once they could get the placenta, Rose and Celie would be good for quite some time. But as it turned out, Emily planned on giving birth at a city hospital, and that completely changed the game for Celie and Rose. They were running out of serum, leading to complete chaos. To help Lila continue to regenerate, Rose developed a serum extracted from her bone marrow. But it did not act as a replacement, and there was barely any improvement in Lila’s condition. Rose had started to accept that Lila would not make it, but Celie refused to give up.

Does Lila Come Back To Life?

Lila’s heart stopped beating once again, but Celie now knew it did not necessarily mean everything was over. She left the house with a sense of urgency, and when Rose returned from work, she found Lila’s body lying in the freezer. Celie went to meet Emily Parker at her house. It was impossible for Celie to explain her situation, so she chose an alternate way to ensure that she had access to the placenta. She drugged Emily’s tea, which resulted in a seizure. Celie called an ambulance, and Emily was admitted to the hospital. The medical team prepared for a premature delivery.

During Birth/Rebirth‘s ending, the doctor comforts Emily by assuring her that her baby will be fine. Emily wanted to know if she would survive as well, but that question remained unanswered. Saving the baby was the priority, and a mother is only expected to care about the baby’s health. The question did not reach the medical team, and even if it did, it was not important enough to answer. Emily suffered another seizure, and she ultimately succumbed to it. While Celie felt momentarily guilty, Rose did not care about what went wrong. They had access to Emily’s body, which meant they could conduct the experiment on Lila once again. At the end of Birth/Rebirth, Celie and Rose attempt to bring Lila back to life, and they succeed. The experiment begins all over again, which possibly suggests that at some point, they would need more serum and would resort to unethical means to make sure that Lila continued to breathe.

In Birth/Rebirth, Celie could sense that her daughter was not the six-year-old she had left with Pauline, but at the same time, she refused to let go of her. The film tends to question how far a mother is willing to go to get her daughter back, even if it means her not retaining any of her typical characteristics. The sudden loss of Lila was so traumatic for Celie that she preferred conducting an inconclusive experiment over and over again to come to terms with her reality. Rose was extremely close to her mother, who introduced her to biology. After her mother’s death, she tried to conduct the same experiment on her mother, but she failed. The success of the experiment would be nothing less than a tribute to her mother, the person who taught her the meaning of regeneration. The only time Rose had a smile on her face was when Celie sent her a starfish that Lila had drawn the previous year. The experimentation was her way of coping with the loss of her mother, and Lila’s drawing reminded her that she was on the right track. Birth/Rebirth also captures the moral dilemma that Rose encounters as a scientist attempting to revive a person from death. Her experimentation was far from ethical, and that was something she struggled to deal with. Her choosing to be a vegan can be interpreted as a way to cope with her conscience.

After the process of regeneration began, Lila seemed to be more attached to Rose than to Celie. Even though Rose tried to treat Lila strictly as the subject of her experiment, she soon grew attached to her. Rose’s bodily fluids acted almost like an umbilical cord, providing the nourishment needed for the rebirth of Lila. Birth/Rebirth could have been a typical horror film if Laura Moss had chosen to turn Lila into a demonic kid, but thankfully, that does not take place to the extent that we expected. It is hinted that since the experiment was necessarily going against the course of nature, the result was not ideal. The only time Lila crawled on her own, she ended up butchering Rose’s pet pig, Muriel (who also went through the same regeneration experiment). Maybe it was a result of jealousy or simply the need to perform a heinous act. This scene in Birth/Rebirth suggests how Lila will never be the child Celie so desperately wants to get back. She can be completely evil, but will that be a good reason for the mothers to decide to quit the experiment, or will they continue for the sake of science and maternal love?

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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