Poor Things (2023) Ending Explained – Was Baxter’s experiment on Bella a success?

Poor Things Plot Summary

Poor Things is a timeless story about Bella that mirrors our own lives. Bella goes on an adventure to escape her mundane life and, in doing so, discovers herself and finds purpose. It hits home with our human wants to seek meaning and purpose in life. Deep down, we all want to be like Bella, and to set ourselves free from our confined existence. In Layman’s terms, the film will have you rethink your own life. 

The story follows Bella Baxter (Ema Stones), a young childlike woman brought back to life by brilliant scientist Dr Godwin Baxter (William Dafoe). Baxter finds it convenient to perform his experiments on Bella, given she’s already dead. After Baxter finds Bella’s dead body, he imbues the brain of a baby girl in her skull, giving Bella a new chance at life.

Bella is kept under constant scrutiny by Dr. Baxter, as he wants to monitor the development of her brain, which will attest to the success of his experiment. However, as Bella’s brain develops and her understanding of the world matures, she grows bored of her restrictive and domesticated life.

This is when Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo) enters her life. Duncan is somewhat attracted to Bella and wants to set her free from Baxter. Even though Bella is engaged to Max McCandless (Ramy Youssef), she calls it quits and leaves for an adventure along with Duncan. This decision spurs the fanatical evolution of Bella Baxter. 

Why Is Dr. Godwin Baxter so cold toward Bella?

As seen in the film, Dr. Godwin Baxter is a brilliant scientist who has devoted his entire life to the betterment of the human species. For Baxter, the most important thing is his experiments, and he doesn’t care who he is hurting. This reminds the audience of his father, who, too, performed mindless experiments on Baxter.

In one instance, we see him burning his son’s thumb just to see how bones and tissues will react to it. Also, Baxter’s disorganized face is courtesy of one of his father’s experiments. The inhumane behaviour continues into the next generation as Baxter, like his father, mistreats Bella through her scientific experiments.

Baxter justifies that it’s the only way to get what he wants. Baxter’s cold demeanour towards Bella is clear as day. When Bella leaves, Baxter says that he doesn’t care about her and will just find another girl to continue his experiments with. For Baxter, Bella is just a lab rat.

Why is Bella so eager to go out and discover the world?

For as long as she can remember, Bella has never left Baxter’s house, but she is well aware of her parents being travellers, thanks to Baxter’s continuous reminders. As Bella matures, she starts to understand how the world works and wants to follow in the footsteps of her parents and live on her terms.

Throughout the film, we see Bella standing on the roof of her house, even though she’s told not to, which cements her wants to go out in the real world. Therefore, it comes as no shock that Baxter’s house rules eventually turn Bella rebellious, and she runs away with Duncan, hoping to see places like Lisbon and Portugal. 

As Bella visits places, her understanding of the real world grows, and she becomes more open about her sexual fantasies and needs. In one instance, Duncan smuggles Bella to a boat and even refuses to tell her where they’re heading, but Bella is more curious than frightened about the surprise.

This signifies Bella’s deep-seated wish to be free, independent, and eager to accept all sorts of possibilities, be it danger or love. Bella is free as long as she’s nowhere near her home and Baxter. 

Was Baxter’s experiment on Bella a success?

Yes, Baxter’s experiment on Bella is pretty much successful. Bella’s journey, in turn, helped her brain develop and mature. In the final act, Bella abandons her childish self (this was because of the baby brain implanted in her) and starts to function like a grown adult.

We also see a faceoff between the two where Baxter is counting his last breaths, and Bella comes in to visit him. Baxter couldn’t be more happy to see the success of his experiment. Bella, too, knows what Baxter had put her through; Bella forgives him and thanks him for giving them a new chance at life.

Not to mention, Bella is now more open about life and sexual choices. In the end, Bella decides to hitch McCandless, who has been waiting for her all these years and also to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. So, all of this is solid evidence that Baxter’s experiment was indeed a success. 

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