If you happen to simply caught The Surprise now that it is streaming on Netflix, you is perhaps pondering that considerably jarring ending. The psychological drama from Chilean director Sebastián Lelio asks you to imagine within the energy of storytelling and the way it can alter actuality. Working example: The younger woman visited by Pugh’s Nurse Lib Wright claims to have the ability to survive with out meals, however actually somebody is perhaps spinning an unimaginable yarn.
Let’s rapidly run by way of the themes of The Surprise, what seems to be true within the story and why it opens and ends in such an odd manner.
Warning: Spoilers forward.
What’s with that bizarre opening?
You might need been double-checking what film you’d placed on after that unusual starting to the interval drama. To the sounds of haunting choral voices, we see the semi-built construction of an old school two-storey home. The digicam pans by way of what seems to be lots in a movie studio, crammed with gear and different items of set. Then actor Niamh Algar says in voiceover: “Good day. That is the start. The start of a movie known as The Surprise. The individuals you are about to fulfill, the characters, imagine of their tales with full devotion. We’re nothing with out tales, and so we invite you to imagine on this one.”
The digicam then stops on the inside of a ship crusing to Eire in 1862, the place the Nice Famine “nonetheless casts a protracted shadow and the Irish maintain England liable for that devastation.” It zooms in on Florence Pugh, who performs English nurse Lib Wright, the principle character of the story.
Yep, it is all a tad pretentious. However it successfully units up the principle theme of the movie: the facility of perception. The entire cause Nurse Wright is summoned by a self-appointed committee to Eire is that many wish to imagine Anna O’Donnell has miraculously lived with out meals for 4 months. Nurse Wright is enlisted to look at the woman for 2 weeks to find out how she’s nonetheless alive.
This framing additionally units us up to concentrate on the transportive energy of storytelling — fairly rapidly you are immersed within the creaking, drippy, smokey world of the ship and Nurse Wright’s journey, a journey the narrator has invited us to imagine in.
What does Nurse Wright drink each night time?
What’s actual and what is not can be represented in Nurse Wright’s habit to what seems to be to be liquid opioids. Nurse Wright has suffered her justifiable share of tragedy — her child daughter died and her husband left her quickly after — and the night time cap is perhaps a manner of serving to her cope. Pricking her finger with blood may very well be a manner of checking she’s nonetheless alive — or it may very well be a type of self-harm. Amid the stresses of her present job, the ritual appears to additional loosen Nurse Wright’s grip on actuality.
Is it true that Anna would not actually need to eat?
Not lengthy into Nurse Wright’s stick with the O’Donnell household, we see younger Anna’s mom lean in fairly near her daughter’s face whereas she’s in mattress. It both seems to be like a loving kiss on the brow or one thing extra disturbing. Nurse Wright quickly escalates her watch of the miracle affected person by insisting the O’Donnells not come near Anna. From this level onward, Anna’s situation deteriorates quickly.
About two-thirds by way of the movie, after summoning the committee, Nurse Wright reveals her evaluation of the scenario: “Anna’s mom, Mrs. O’Donnell, has been passing her meals from her personal mouth. She cups her face and kisses her good morning and good night time, and he or she feeds her daughter with every kiss, like a fowl.” With Anna’s mom prevented from kissing Anna, Anna rapidly turns into unwell, not receiving any sustenance in any respect.
Why does Anna refuse to eat?
Even after Nurse Wright reveals her findings to the committee, Anna’s mom refuses to confess the reality. She and her husband are keen to let the experiment proceed, even when Anna dies, refusing to surrender their non secular beliefs. In any case, Anna has “chosen” the trail to loss of life, believing that if she dies, “one soul shall be launched… from Hell.” Anna thinks this soul shall be her brother, who molested her when she was 9 for years earlier than he died. He was “punished” for the “Unholy” act with lethal sickness, however their mom says he’ll be launched to Heaven with Anna’s sacrifice. Anna believes that is her responsibility as a result of she liked her brother again.
What’s with the narrator on the finish?
In the long run, Nurse Wright makes use of the facility of storytelling and perception to avoid wasting Anna. After discovering the horrifying narrative Anna’s mom has fed her, Nurse Wright convinces Anna of a distinct destiny: That she will die and make her sacrifice, but additionally be reborn as a 9-year-old once more who did not endure horrible acts. Mixing the opioid liquid with milk, Nurse Wright induces Anna right into a trance-like state during which she experiences rebirth, assuming the brand new identification of “Nan.”
Nurse Wright fakes a report of Anna dying so the committee do not press expenses towards her and burns down the O’Donnell’s home so proof of a physique seems to be destroyed. Escaping Eire, Nurse Wright, William and Nan safely make it to Australia, posing because the Cheshire household. There, we see them partake in a elaborate meal, with Nan proven to be consuming once more.
To the sound of extra hopeful, ethereal tones, the digicam pans and we return to the movie studio. There, we see Algar wearing all black, not enjoying Anna’s older sister Kitty, however the mysterious narrator. She whispers: “In. Out. In. Out.” Once more, pretentious, however this goes again to the thought of believing in tales and the facility of religion.