Matriarch Plot Synopsis
Fans of folk horror might want to tune into this recent British chiller that stars Jemima Rooper as Laura, a self-destructive young woman who returns to the village of her childhood to stay with her mother. Once there, she realizes something is disturbingly wrong in the place that she once called home, as the villagers are all acting weirdly and her mother seems to be behind their odd behaviour.
As Laura investigates the strange goings-on in the village, she discovers something strange in her late father’s greenhouse. Unfortunately, her discovery isn’t a rotten tomato plant or a rudely-shaped fruit or vegetable! Instead, Laura discovers a strange being that, potentially, has the power to end her life.
Does Laura escape the village alive? Or does she fall prey to the mysterious force that is taking up residence in the greenhouse? Let’s take a closer look at the movie.
How does the movie begin?
The movie begins with a naked man walking through a very muddy pond. We never see his face but we later learn that this man was Laura’s father.
After taking a few steps into the pond, the man sinks, and it’s at this point that we can assume he has taken his own life.
The movie then fast-forwards into the future where we meet Laura. It’s clear that all isn’t right with her as not only do we watch her make herself throw up at home but we also see her struggling with the demands of her job.
After spending the night with an ex-lover, Laura takes some drugs and overdoses. She collapses on the bathroom floor and while unconscious, she has visions of black water entering her mouth and a hand reaching out to her from the water.
Laura doesn’t die from the drug overdose – this would have been a much shorter film otherwise! Instead, she picks herself up and goes to work, where she discovers her estranged mother Celia has been trying to call her.
She returns the phone call and asks Celia how she knew where she was. Her mother replies “the internet” and that she had a feeling that Laura was in pain.
After speaking to her mother, Laura quits her job and makes the journey back to the village where she spent an unhappy childhood.
Laura likely returns to the village because her life is in a mess and she needs the support of her mother, despite their fractured relationship. But on her arrival, she realizes something is amiss when she notices her mother and the local villagers haven’t aged. Have they stumbled upon the fountain of youth? Not quite.
Do Laura and Celia get along?
Laura’s return home isn’t a happy one as the two women start to fight almost instantly. Celia wants to take Laura for a stroll in the garden as she reminds Laura that she enjoyed playing there when she was a kid. Laura’s memories are rather different, however, as she remembers the garden as a hiding place from her mother and not as a place of fun.
During these early scenes, we learn that Celia mistreated Laura when she was a child. Celia is mostly unrepentant and this causes a heated argument between them wherein Laura calls Celia a “sadistic bitch.”
Laura then spends time outside of the house with Abi, her childhood friend, who is the only woman who seems to have grown older during their years apart.
After spending time with Abi – who we later learn is reporting Laura’s whereabouts to Celia – Laura returns to her childhood home. Celia seemingly tries to make amends with her daughter but it’s clear that she doesn’t have the best of intentions. Not only does she put sedatives in Laura’s drink and food to make her fall asleep but she also drags her daughter’s unconscious body into the garden after the drugs have taken effect.
Unfortunately, Celia doesn’t drag Laura into the garden for an enforced stroll. She has other plans but as Laura starts to stir, we don’t find out what these plans are as Celia then scurries back into the house.
Upon waking up, Laura assumes she has been sleepwalking and the next day, she asks her mother if she used to sleepwalk as a child. Celia tells her that she did but we know that she is lying to cover up her actions the night before.
Why does Celia drug her daughter?
It’s clear that Celia is a less-than-loving mother but her reasons for drugging Laura go beyond mere cruelty. The clues to her behaviour are linked to the strange notes that are hanging from the trees, with requests and words of thanks from the villagers to some kind of God.
Some of the villagers secrete a strange black liquid which is something Laura also begins to experience in the movie. There is also a feud between the villagers and Ken, the father of Abi and the only Christian in the village. These are also clues that point back to Celia.
As the movie progresses, we discover the truth about Celia. She is a leader of a cult that is made up of everybody except Ken. Laura becomes aware of this when she looks through the window of a church and sees her mother feeding the villagers a black liquid that is dripping from her breasts.
The villagers are all naked and are desperate to sample what Celia is giving them. This liquid is the source of their agelessness, which might explain why they start to have sex with one another after becoming invigorated.
Laura is understandably shocked at what she sees and is further disturbed when she notices her arm is starting to rot. She goes to visit Abi but it’s Ken who opens the door. He isn’t welcoming, despite his Christian beliefs, and he asks Laura if she returned home to take her “mother’s milk.”
Ken then tells Laura that Celia changed the village with her “poison.” He then talks to her about her dad and how he didn’t kill himself when he stepped into the pond. According to Ken, he gave his life as a sacrifice. Laura wants to know more but when Ken pulls a gun on her, she is forced to flee.
Things then get very weird – even weirder than a naked woman standing at the front of a church feeding people black goo from her breasts!
What is going on in the village?
After fleeing from Ken, Laura bumps into one of the villagers who forces her towards her father’s greenhouse. He tells her Celia has given him permission to hurt her and he pushes her towards an area of the greenhouse that leads to a pool of water on the other side of a barrier.
The man clearly intends to sacrifice Laura to something but when that ‘something’ appears, it is the man who meets his fate.
What is this thing that appears in the greenhouse? A giant woman that has worms falling out of her mouth, which probably isn’t what you or Laura were expecting!
The giant woman cradles the man in her breasts and kills him by emptying the worms from her mouth into his.
Naturally, Laura is taken aback by this and she runs away. But before she can get far, she runs into Abi and Celia and is forced by the women to return to the greenhouse.
We then learn more about Celia’s backstory and from this, we can decipher the reason behind the appearance of the strange being, aka the matriarch!
Celia reveals that her husband couldn’t help her conceive so he sacrificed his life to a goddess that caused Celia to become pregnant with Laura. Not only this but the goddess also gave Celia the power of life through the black liquid that we earlier saw being secreted from her breasts. Celia started to sell this to the villagers in exchange for power and wealth. But when Celia realised her powers were receding, she summoned her daughter back home so she could sacrifice her to the goddess – now able to materialise in the greenhouse – and regain her powers anew.
What happens to Laura?
Celia tries to sacrifice Laura to the goddess but the being doesn’t harm her. Around this time, Ken shows up wielding a shotgun and wants to know why Abi is present. He learns that Abi needs Celia’s power to escape the cancer that had once threatened to take her life. This causes him to snap and he kills himself with a garden fork.
The goddess then frees Laura, leaving her unharmed. Laura grabs Ken’s shotgun and shoots at the barrier which causes the goddess to disappear.
Laura then forces Celia to return to the church. On their arrival, Celia asks the naked villagers if they love her. When they say they do, Laura, upon realizing the influence Celia has on the villagers, knocks her mother to the floor with the gun and proceeds to smash her head to a pulp.
Laura then goes to the muddy pond where her father previously sacrificed himself and proceeds to walk through the mud until she also sinks and presumably drowns.
Why did Laura kill herself?
It can be assumed that she wanted to be with her father but it might also be that the goddess lured her in to sacrifice herself. The movie doesn’t seem to offer up a real explanation behind Laura’s final act but if you can decipher the ending, be sure to let us know by leaving us a comment below.
Read More: Matriarch Movie Review