Bird Box jumps between two timelines – we start with Malorie (Sandra Bullock) and two kids travelling blindfolded in a boat down a river, where to we do not know, but right from the opening scene learn that they must not look or they will die. The second timeline is about 5 years earlier where we meet a then heavily pregnant Malorie and her sister Jessica (Sarah Paulson), as they see news reports about some unexplained phenomenon in Europe and Russia causing mass suicides.
After the death of her mother, Marcy (Elisabeth Olsen) longs for a new family which she finds in a community of people lead by Patrick (John Hawkes). As the movie starts, we see Martha run away from this cult and seek refuge with her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson). The tagline of the movie sets the scene: You can get away, but you can never escape.
The movie is set in December 1952, initially in New York. Therese is a young girl working in a department store who has ambitions to be a photographer, and has drifted into a relationship with Richard, who wants her to come away with him on a trip to Europe, and has stated his intention to marry her. One day in the department store Therese sees a confident, beautiful middle aged woman called Carol (Cate Blanchett), and is intrigued by her.