‘Mother, May I?’ Ending, Explained: What Happens To Tracy, Anya And Emmett? 


Named after a children’s game, Laurence Vannicelli’s film, Mother, May I?, explores the consequences of childhood trauma buried deep in a person’s consciousness. Emmett (Kyle Gallner) enters the screen as he finds out that his biological mother, Tracy, is dead and has left her house to him in her will. The film doesn’t waste a moment establishing that Emmett hates his biological mother because she abandoned him at a critical age and gave him up for adoption.

Spoiler Alert

The feelings of abandonment have left a deep emotional scar on Emmett’s mind, and he is consistently seeking psychological help to cope with the trauma. He also wants to start a family with his fiancee, Anya, who is a copywriter and wishes to be a successful poet someday. Emmett believes that having a child of his own and raising him right would erase the haunting memories, but Anya has a different opinion, and she has her reasons for that. As the couple arrives at his mother’s house with the intention of selling it, things start to unravel between the two. The elements of horror and eeriness fill the screen, where we find out that Anya has somehow started acting like Emmett’s mother. The revelation catches Emmett off guard, and his mental condition worsens beyond limits. At this point, he fails to understand what’s real and what’s not, which leads to a heated argument between the two. So, without any further ado, let’s break down the film bit by bit to understand the meaning of Mother, May I?‘s ending.

How Did Tracy Die?

Emmett’s mother, Tracy, suddenly dies in her isolated house, situated in a small community somewhere near Binghamton. The cause of her death isn’t confirmed in Mother, May I? but we believe she suffered a stroke while having her morning coffee. She fell from the chair and hit her head on the floor. That might also be one of the reasons for her death. Her neighbor, Bill, finds her dead and informs the authorities, who soon communicate the same to her son. Tracy’s body is quickly cremated, as Emmett doesn’t want to waste any extra pennies on his mother’s funeral. He spreads the ashes over a nearby pond, calling it “fish food,” thereby implying that he is neither affected by her death nor has any love left for her.

Does Anya Get Possessed?

Emmett enters the house with Anya, who is quite stunned by the interiors. She believes that they shouldn’t sell it and instead, turn it into a writers’ retreat or a camping house, but Emmett wants to get it off his hands as soon as possible. Anya realizes that Emmett has been trying to avoid talking about his mother, and therefore, she urges him to do the chair reversal therapy, which she perhaps learned from her own cold and intellectual mother. Emmett gives in and opens up about why he hates his mother and has been avoiding talking about her since the beginning.

At night, the couple trips on mushrooms to repress their feelings, and that is when things get out of hand. Anya starts acting strange and calls for another chair reversal game at night, where she directly asks Emmett if he ever questions why his mother abandoned him. It is quite clear that Emmett isn’t comfortable talking about these things, but Anya pushes him further and further. She not only starts acting like Emmett’s mother but also wears his mother’s cardigan to push Emmett out of his comfort zone. However, as soon as Anya symbolically wears Tracy’s attire, her demeanor completely changes, and she starts doing everything that Tracy used to do.

At this point, Mother, May I? doesn’t explain how and why Anya became Tracy, but we believe that Tracy’s spirit possessed her. It is the simplest explanation for such an eerie situation, but director Laurence Vannicelli had introduced psychedelic mushrooms into the narrative to imply that it might’ve been caused by hallucinogens. Emmett later finds out that his mother used to write journals about her life, which Anya might have read to act and dress like her, but it is hard to connect those links. Anya couldn’t just change her entire personality overnight and become a person she had never seen or known. She starts to dance, smoke, cook, and write like Tracy, which makes us believe that Tracy’s spirit might have possessed Anya in order to take care of her son, who has finally returned to the house after such a long time.

Why Did Anya Lie To Emmett?

As Emmett was trying to understand an extremely eerie scenario, he searched Anya’s bag, where he found some ultrasound pictures. Emmett was no genius here, and hence he believed that Anya was pregnant, which was obviously why she visited a doctor. However, the truth was that Anya could never become a mother, but Emmett clearly had no knowledge of the woman’s body and thus failed to understand it. The man-child acted wildly, which, mind you, was not because of childhood trauma, but because Emmett had always been like this. Even at the end of the film, Bill, Tracy’s neighbor, comments that Emmett has always been a wild child. It is no excuse, though.

Emmett believed that Anya had been lying to him since the beginning, and therefore, he unleashed his wrath upon her. He said the most mean things that he had been thinking about all along but couldn’t blurt out because he’d wanted to be a well-behaved man. One can clearly see that, at this point, Emmett is losing his grip on himself. Through Emmett, we found out that Anya had a pretty cold and calculative mother who only validated her child’s existence when she did something really exceptional. And hence began Anya’s eternal struggle to impress her mother so that she could earn some love and attention from her.

As per Emmett, Anya was no exceptional poet, and she hadn’t written anything worthwhile in some time. She was a failing and frustrated copywriter who had created an image of a poet in her head through which she was trying to impress her mother. But evidently, she had been miserably failing in it throughout, which took a toll on her mental health. Things worsened further when Anya found out that she could never give birth. She really wanted to have a child, as she saw it as an escape from her failed career. When she found out that she couldn’t be a mother, she would have wanted to share it with someone close to her heart, i.e., Emmett. We are not considering her mother because we believe a person like her wouldn’t have been able to understand her daughter’s pain. Emmett, on the other hand, was no different. He desperately wanted a child because he wanted to fill the void in his own life. Anya, like us, might have known what the outcome would be, and thus held back the information, looking for the right opportunity to reveal the truth. But unfortunately, Emmett found out the truth, and it went downhill for the couple from thereon.

Did Tracy Really Abandon Emmett?

This is one of the most blurry parts of Mother, May I?, but there are some suggestions at the end of the film that makes us believe that Tracy didn’t really abandon Emmett, but that he was taken away by the authorities.

According to Bill, Emmett’s father was a flashy artist who used to ride motorcycles. Being a narcissistic artist, he might have treated Tracy as a fling or would have left to focus on his own career. However, at this point, Bill also makes an uncanny remark, implying that he is not Emmett’s father. There was really no need for that dialogue unless one really wanted to hint at something. Bill knew that Tracy wasn’t a good mother. She was more of an artist than a mother. She was engrossed in her work all the time and never really attended to her “wild thing,” because of which Emmett, in his childhood, always lacked a mother’s love. When a possessed Anya confronts Emmett, she tells him that a child is more of a need than a want. It could be theorized that maybe Tracy, who was once a popular dancer, had seen her career fade away, which was when she decided to have a child to have an excuse to run away from it, just like Anya wanted to. She might have believed that it would be better to be called a mother than a fading artist. However, Mother, May I? suggests nothing of that sort directly. But there is one thing that we can say with certainty: Tracy wasn’t a good mother, and the guilt ate her up during her dying years.

Bill further revealed to Anya that Emmett had been a wild child who was really hard to discipline. The film is named after a children’s game that is taught to children to discipline them and make them listen to their parents. We believe that throughout the film, Tracy has been trying to discipline her child. She failed to do so when she was alive, and thus, she tried to do the same after her death. During his childhood, Emmett refused to listen to his mother, because of which she used some tranquilizing drug on him. Emmett remembered those syringes and might have gotten addicted to them, which was the reason why he brought them into his conversation numerous times.

In the past, when Emmett was still a kid, he showed up at Bill’s house with some serious injuries. He instantly took the boy to the hospital, and we believe that was where the authorities might have found traces of the drug in his bloodstream. They might have reported it to the child welfare services, who instantly took the boy under their care and later handed him over to some foster parents. Anya had also found some legal papers in the basement that suggested that Emmett was taken away by child services, after which he was adopted in New York. Anya saw the childhood pictures of Emmett where he had a bruised hand, which might have given the authorities the idea that Tracy was either abusive or negligent. The theory of her being negligent is true, as Bill hints at the same thing. It can also be theorized that Bill (if he was really Emmett’s father) could have reported the same to the authorities so that his child would get better care elsewhere.

What Happens To Anya And Emmett? 

We believe that Tracy’s spirit was trying to redeem herself and fulfill the failed purpose of her life, and therefore, she possessed Anya’s body so that she could act like a mother. Remember the first time Anya made breakfast for him? He was quite surprised for a bit, but he liked the gesture. He even asked Anya later to make him some fried eggs, unaware of the fact that his mother’s spirit had left her body. It is no secret that Emmett was craving a mother’s love, and the spirit was trying to fulfill the same through Anya. In the end, Bill warned Anya that she couldn’t give Emmett what he wanted from her, thereby suggesting that she should walk out of his life. Anya thinks about it, but on the same night, we see Emmett craving his mother’s problematic touch and begging Anya to inject him with the drugs. At this moment, we can also see Tracy’s hands guiding Anya’s hand to comfort Emmett the way she used to, thereby proving the fact that she only wants someone to look after her son while she is gone.

The next morning, Emmett revealed to Anya that he didn’t really burn her diary in his anger. However, in the very next scene, Anya revealed that she was quite relieved when he did that, as she wanted an excuse to end her writing career. She could have told her friends that she had lost the diary or that her fiancé had burned it so that no one would ever ask her to read it to them. Sitting on the boat in the center of the lake, Emmett again asked Anya how she turned into his mother some days ago. Emmett couldn’t shake off the fact that Anya, who was so afraid of water and didn’t know how to swim, was able to do it so gracefully while she was acting like his mother. He questioned her about whether she had been lying to him all along. In order to find out the truth, Emmett threw Anya from the boat, but when she started to drown, he quickly jumped into the lake to save her from death. No, at this point, no sane person would have chosen to live with such a man, and thus, Anya made the right decision and walked away from Emmett. Unfortunately, that decision was momentary.

During Mother, May I?‘s ending, Anya saw a bug inside her car. It reminded Anya of Tracy, as Bill had earlier told her that Tracy used to believe that she would turn into a bug after her death. For some reason, the bug convinced Anya to return to the deep well of trauma. She had a near-death experience, but it can be said that, like a moth to a flame, some people are drawn to pain and trauma. Emmett and Anya played the reversed chair game again and shared their problems with each other. Anya wanted a child, but she couldn’t give birth; on the other hand, Emmett wanted a mother, but his biological mother was already dead. So maybe that is what is going to happen next. Anya will psychologically and physically play the role of Emmett’s mother, while Emmett will act like a child (something he has been doing throughout the film). Maybe Anya will keep injecting drugs into his system to control him because that’s what he has become addicted to. Tracy’s spirit, on the other hand, might look after this new arrangement and will quickly take a leave from the couple’s life when she is certain that her child is in good hands now.

In the end, we also saw Anya holding the syringe in her hand, which could imply two things. First, we can speculate that she might use the sedative to control the wild Emmett, who often starts acting violently when he loses control. Secondly, it could also be that Anya would try to kill Emmett by making him overdose in order to get rid of him. That is, if Tracy’s spirit allows her to harm her son. Earlier, Emmett had tried to kill Anya in the lake, and therefore she has the motive to do so. But considering Anya’s desire for a child, we believe that she will only use the tranquilizing drug to silence the demon in front of her. Laurence Vannicelli has left the film open-ended to let the viewers decide which outcome they want to believe in.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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