Here is the context.

His mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) swills martinis and chases each gesture of love toward her son with a stinger. “You’re choosing a life of being alone forever,” she tells him when he comes out to her, punctuating her initial insistence that she didn’t care with a dagger to the heart. “You’ll never be loved.”

Also,what do 'punctuate one's initial insistence' and 'with a dagger to the heart' mean?

Here is the link.‘Rocketman’ Is So Much Better—and Gayer—Than ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

2 Answers 2


“To chase X with a Y” is an expression that is normally used to describe drinking alcohol - you might chase a shot of liquor (bad-tasting/strong) with a glass of juice (or something mild-tasting) in order to mask the taste of the liquor.

In this blurb, this expression is used metaphorically and with an almost opposite meaning, to emphasize the mother’s cruelty. She speaks while drinking a martini, which is maybe an allusion to the alcohol-related meaning of the phrase, though a martini is neither a shot nor a chaser - a martini is a drink one normally associates with rich people lounging around, which adds to the cruelty, since someone would normally be very relaxed while sipping a martini - not in a highly emotional state (though to be fair, the word “swill” is used, which means essentialy “to drink large amounts quickly” - so she’s probably drunk while she’s speaking to him).

Regardless of the actual alcohol being drunk, there is a metaphor here- each of her gestures of love is like a shot of alcohol since it comes first, but then it is followed (“chased”) not by something mild, but by something bad - a “stinger” - which is a cruel statement that “stings” the recipient.

“A dagger to the heart” is an idiomatic expression (hence why it’s not “a dagger to his heart”, which you asked about in a comment)- obviously, a literal dagger to the heart would be horrible since it would kill someone. This is a metaphor that is used to describe anything that is devastating for someone to hear. The mother’s cruel words affected him so much that he felt like he was being stabbed in the heart. If she said she didn’t care originally (which is a mean thing to say), it was made even worse - “punctuated” here means something like “emphasized” - when she told him “you’ll never be loved.”


All these phrases are journalist's colorful way of telling us that Howard's character does not approve of/love her son.

Think of this: if you see a person chasing a balloon with a pointed stinger, you assume their intention is to pop the balloon. By stating that Howard's character chases each gesture of love with a stinger, the writer is telling us that she is in fact not a loving person towards her son.

The root word of punctuating is punctuate which means 'to accentuate or emphasize'. So when Howard's character says "You're choosing a life of being alone", the journalist says this further emphasizes that she does not care or love her son.

If you actually saw someone stab another person in the heart with a dagger, you'd assume that person hated, or at the very least strongly disliked the other person. The phrase 'a dagger to the heart' is a way of saying Howard's character did something very hurtful with little regard for her son's feelings.

Summary: Howard's character is the film 'Rocketman' is overall not a very nice person.

  • Many thanks! Only that i don't get the grammar of 'with a dagger to the heart',why shouldn't it be like 'with a dagger to his heart' or maybe other forms?
    – dubina
    May 31, 2019 at 11:03
  • I feel "a dagger to the heart" is an idiomatic simile I have heard before. That expression calls up a general image of cruelty. The author could have said, "... to his heart," and it would mean the same thing, but be more specific to that individual and his heart. Maybe it would even give a more shocking, graphic image since it would be about that particular living person and heart.
    – Lorel C.
    May 31, 2019 at 14:07

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