The Babadook: The Fear of Living


What would it be like to lose a lifelong partner, someone who you have spent your entire life with? Someone who you dedicated decades of yourself to. It would certainly be heartbreaking and the void they would leave in your life would never be filled. The one thing you find solace in is knowing that you had a long happy life together, that you had the opportunity to spend your fleeting moments on this planet with that person that made you feel so much happy. 

Young couples often wonder what it would be like to have that with someone and when they find a person they’d like to spend the rest of their life with, they begin to imagine. When they decide to be with that person and have the intention to spend forever together, they don’t think of what life would be like without them if they are suddenly taken away before their dreams are fulfilled and before they are able to have those decades of love and companionship. 

All that remains are broken life paths, an seemingly empty emotional husk, and the responsibilities of the pairing that didn’t last. 

Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook will have you Babashook as this film takes viewers on a dark, mental health journey – one that frames the plights of single motherhood, depression, and isolation in a deeply disturbing way. It is through this framing that we are able to understand our protagonist Amelia Vanek, Portrayed by Essie Davis, how she sees the world around her, and how she overcomes the looming darkness. 

After her husband passed away, she is left with not only a broken heart but the responsibility of their young child. All on her own, the fears of moving on without him and the darkness elicited by her depression begin to manifest in her life and in a character in a children’s book she reads to her son, The Babadook. 

This film presents an interesting framing of fear as it is not really the titular monster, but instead, Amelia’s son, that is the scariest. The film paints the kid as this nagging, fearful responsibility. While his mother is supposed to love him, she can’t help but be stressed to no end by him. The way the child actor Noah Wiseman plays the role perfectly elevates a normal child into a character that appears scarier than he actually is. He is still just a child longing for the love of his mother and while all of his needs or wants are normal, they appear like such big pressures for a mother who has lost so much and is lost herself.

The end of the story teaches us that it isn’t her son that is at fault for her suffering, that it is her job to protect him, that she is powerful, and that she can move forward regardless of the monster in the basement. She is in control of her destiny and future. She must be willing to brave life without her departed husband, she will always carry him with her on whatever path she goes down but it is up to her to decide which one she will take. She has agency and the fear of living her life doesn’t have to guide her anymore.

The Babadook is about the remnants one leaves behind when they leave this world. It is about the people who are left to pick up those pieces. It is about our plans and intentions that are always guaranteed to be thrown into the wind only to be scattered all over, like puzzle pieces on a sandy beach we will never find all the pieces, so we make a new picture instead. It is a Mother deciding to be brave in the face of the fear of living her life and discovering that her life isn’t just to be lived for the sake of her son but her own happiness.

I give The Babadook 9/10 screams for its mental health themes, its conversations about moving forward, not “getting over it,” and its excellent acting performances.

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