Hereditary: How It’s A Harrowing Portrait Of Anxiety


The demons of Hereditary have been explored extensively but could it be that the movie speaks to something else lurking beneath the surface?

Given the title of the film Hereditary, it’s evident that the story is meant to be a depiction of the inner demons that we inherit from our parents. It’s also intended to be a dark portrait of grief and loss. However, the way I personally view it, the movie demonstrates a particular type of inner demon. Hereditary does perfectly portray how the behavior traits our parents possess can easily be passed onto us. But it also seems to depict a sneaky condition that may or may not be hereditary.

Living with anxiety is no fun. It’s a constant cycle of paranoia, despair, and self-doubt that takes a strong hold on you in your weakest moments. Seeing what the main character of Annie (Toni Collette) goes through was quite a harsh reminder of that vicious cycle. During one scene, Annie explains that there is a history of mental illness in her family. But it becomes unclear what specific problem Annie suffers from or whether she fears that she’ll suffer the same severe problems as her family members.

As the film progresses, Annie shows signs of nervousness and paranoia. Especially when Joan (Ann Dowd), an old acquaintance of Annie’s late mother, enters the picture and becomes a little too interested in Annie and her family. Then there are constant mood shifts which are specifically demonstrated in the film’s dinner scene. As she’s arguing with her son Peter (Alex Woolf), she’s clearly stricken with grief but she also switches from feelings of anger to sadness and despair within seconds. Most of the scene’s impact stems from Toni Collette’s performance. Yet, seeing her go from feeling the need to lash out to being on the verge of tears hit pretty close to home.

That scene also served as a reminder of the fear of losing control that one who suffers from anxiety has. Whether it’d be a fear of losing control of your senses or your grip on reality, there’s always an ongoing fear of losing some type of control. Especially when unwanted thoughts, a less discussed symptom of anxiety, begin to set in.

In a later scene where  Peter  is having a nightmare, Annie walks in and makes a confession, saying how (*spoiler alert*) she didn’t have a desire to become a mother. But because it’s a nightmare sequence, it’s unclear whether that confession has any truth to it. Although what is clear is that Annie’s previous confrontation at the dinner table has made Peter feel neglected. His fear that her anger makes him feel unwanted manifests into that harrowing nightmare. It’s also clear that her feelings of anxiety have started to pass onto him and his mind seems to be making him believe that his mother didn’t want to raise him.

Much like how the symptom itself generally goes unnoticed, the rest of the film doesn’t go deep into how serious unwanted thoughts are. Yet, it’s still not a major detriment to the movie’s quality and to be fair, it is up to interpretation as to whether or not the movie is meant to depict anxiety.

I mainly say it is because it slightly reflects my personal battles with the illness and is the way I personally interpret the film’s themes. Because the movie allows viewers to interpret it in their own ways, it is a perfect demonstration of its subjective genius.

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Do you agree that Hereditary could reflect an anxiety disorder? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.