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3 Theories to Explain The Strange Ones Movie
3 Theories to Explain The Strange Ones Movie - or how a confusing jumble of scenes can amount to an abattoir. A cattle shoot of determinism heading our hero down the shoot to his destruction. IMDB
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I have recently completely overhauled this entire movie discussion post for The Strange Ones based on ONE comment that I got (that comment won’t be hard to find, it’s the first comment I got, but it is so spoiler laden (even though the heart of the comment is only three words) it spoiled the movie for me, and I’ve SEEN it! hahaha.) But instead of me telling you what happened. Why don’t we grapple with a couple different theories of what might have happened.

And also, I want to be super clear straight out of the gate here. This movie is not a THiNC. movie recommendation (which, if you are curious, you can see my long lost of movies I do endorse, right here.) And on that list we’ll have some fun movies that are LIKE The Strange Ones, but are NOT The Strange Ones. Maybe Super Dark Times is sort of in this genre, or maybe They Look Like People? But the move that is most like the Strange Ones, while actually making it to the THiNC. approved list definitely would be the movie Midnight Special.

The themes here are too dark. Too taboo really to give a pass too. And so I have rated it accordingly, and I also want to not encourage anyone to see this that hasn’t already. So yeah, I am not bringing this to you today to say, watch this. The reason I’m talking about it today is just to solve it. To unravel it. And determine what exactly happened. I kept seeing The Strange Ones hit my radar over and over again, and when I read reviews of the movie on Amazon, or elsewhere, I kept seeing people say, (this is a direct quote from a comment I found), “Maybe I didn’t watch the movie closely enough because it was hallucinatory and jumbled. I liked it, but I didn’t understand it.” And this isn’t a one off perspective on this film. These sorts of comments happen over and over again. But the movie is all right there. It is very clear what happened. Sometimes when I do movie reviews I enjoy giving 10 different theories as to what exactly might have happened. But here? Nope. There is one clear answer.

What is The Strange Ones

While I am not dropping this movie in my recommendations pile, I did enjoy portions of it. The editing. The ambiguity of it. The non-linear progressions at certain times. The way the film shows us Jeremiah’s mental state throughout. It was very well done. I mean, we had Alex Pettyfer here playing a really intense and complicated role. (Never mind the fact that it is his role that makes me not specifically recommend the movie. Not his acting, no, that was actually fantastic. But the role itself, the character. I’ve said too much. I haven’t said enough… that’s me in the corner… that’s me in the spot light… losing my gah! I digress.)

For those of you that haven’t seen it, and are curious, I will tell you that the movie follows two “brothers” on a “vacation.” (Yes, those are the biggest air quotes imaginable.) But all is not right with our brothers. Nothing seems to fit… or work. I mean, first of all there are the horrible nightmares and the flashbacks to something bad that has happened. And then there are the hints that they are sort of on the run? There are news stories that are chasing behind them? So the entirety of the movie is about unraveling these two guys out. Their relationship, their past. Ok? It actually is a very good movie, I am just not a fan of the answers the movie gives… but overall, it really was very well done. Maybe the trailer will convince you one way or the other to watch it or not.

So, it goes without saying, that from here on out, I’ll be diving into the details of exactly what happened in the movie The Strange Ones in an attempt to explain it, and also figure it out. Because there are nuances here that are left up to our assumptions and opinions about what exactly happened. So, why don’t we start by walking through the timeline of the movie, but instead of giving it to you in the order that movie’s creator’s, Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein, gave it to us, I’ll give it to you in chronological order. And I’m betting that that by itself will explain 99% of the questions you had coming into this post.

The Strange Ones Breakdown

Sam lives with his father, Robert. But Sam’s father is never around because he works the night shift. And even when he is around things are not well. We get the indication that Robert beats Sam fairly regularly. And when Robert is at work, Sam stays with the next door neighbor, Nick. Right? You got that? Because this is basically the holy trinity of this movie. Sam (kid), Robert (dad), Nick (neighbor). We good? Great.

Now, while Sam is staying with Nick, Sam divulges that his father beats him. And Nick tells Sam, you know what, if that were me? I’d defend myself. I wouldn’t put up with it. So one day, after a particularly bad encounter between Sam and Robert, Sam’s goes to stay with Nick, and eventually Robert comes home from work and apologizes to Sam. But this time is going to be different. And Sam walks in to where his turned away father is, and basically beats him to death. Sam tells Nick, and in order to protect Sam, the two of them burn the house down, and then go on the run.

So at this point, by discussing the beginning (which the movie is the end) we have 90% of the answers that most of you were struggling with. But there is one more detail still swinging in the breeze. And so these two guys go on the run, they are headed back to where Nick grew up in the woods. But along the way pretty much anything and everything that could go wrong did.

When Nick hits a deer, Sam and Nick, hike up the road to a hotel, and end up hanging out with the manager, Kelly, who has taken a liking to Nick. Nick and Sam are allowed to stay indefinitely by Kelly, but Sam sabotages them by telling Kelly that Nick is horrible, and that he might rape her… that he actually is gay. Which, should have sent all kinds of alarm bells off in your head. Not because of the details of what he was saying, but why he was saying it. I mean, if Sam knows he’s on the run from the cops, and this is a nice safe harbor, why bust a good thing? And then another troubling thing happens, Nick hits Sam for trashing their opportunity there at the hotel.

After that, the movie accelerates significantly. Sam and Nick head out to the woods where Nick grew up. But they are spotted by someone. And Nick is shot in the arm. Nick tells Sam to run for it, and Nick stays behind in the cave and ends up in a shoot out with the cops. As Sam runs he stumbles onto some kids at a summer camp type place (if anyone knows what this camp is all about, I would love to know more… because wow. Maybe the script has details about what this camp is?) and they take him in. Eventually, the head of the camp talks to the police, and they put two and two together and realize he is the missing boy that the authorities have been looking for that has been with Nick in the woods.

So Sam and a Child Protective Services woman talk. And it is here that we understand the narrative that the authorities believe, and the story that the film makers want us to believe. And that is, that Sam’s father Robert, was about to take a new job. And Nick didn’t want Sam to leave… for some reason.

“Sam, did he touch you?”

And so Nick killed Robert, and ran off with Sam. It was a child abduction scenario. Right? But that isn’t what happened at all.

After Sam’s father dying, and Nick dying in a shoot out, Sam goes to stay with his friend Sarah. Now, Sarah, has always had a crush on Sam apparently. And it is through their conversation, and through the flashbacks that we see the truth of what really happened that night. We learn through Sarah’s questions that Sam was abused by Nick. We also learn that before Sam killed his father that he texted with Sarah about wanting his father dead. And when he rejects Sarah’s advances eventually, he runs away in the night. And it is during his running that we get the flashbacks of Nick telling Sam to defend himself, and to not put up with his father’s abuse. And that is when we clearly learn that Sam indeed did kill his father.

Which is why, at the end of the movie, we see Sam flash back to his talk with the head of the camp. Gary gives Sam the same advice that Nick gave him, which was, your dreams (memories) are subject to your command. Just decide that they don’t exist anymore. You control what is and isn’t real in your head. These memories are only as real as you want them to be. FADE TO BLACK.

Let’s Talk Strange Ones Theories of Explanations

The themes and ideas of this movie are galling and horrific to consider really. But this movie’s editing and ambiguity sits in my wheelhouse 100%. It is fairly complicated to unpack. It is confusing to figure out exactly what happened, and why. And after receiving my first comment, 3 words of their comment forced me to sit down and totally redo this section entirely. Instead of telling you what happened, maybe there are several possibilities.

Possibility #1 – The Literal Strange Ones Theory

Theory one is just a straight up and down literal reading of what the movie gave us. Robert is abusing Sam. Sam is staying with Nick and he is sexually abusing Sam. Sam is persuaded by Nick to kill his father. Nick and Sam flee and head back to Nick’s old childhood stomping grounds. So, with this theory, we realize that we have a triangle relationship of abuse all the way around between Nick, Sam, and Robert. Robert is physically abusing Sam. And Nick is sexually abusing Sam. Both are preying on him. Even worse? Nick psychologically preyed on Sam, and convinced Sam to kill his own father. Horrendous.

Think about this in the real world. Where people are generally sane. If you find out that a neighbor is being physically abused by their father, you call the cops. Right? I mean, that’s how it works. They then bring in Child Protection Services, and find out what is going on. But instead, Nick gets all up in Sam’s mind, and convinces him that if he were to stand up for himself, the two of them could runaway and live happily ever after in the woods, at a cabin he spent time in as a child. He sells him on this idyllic life of the woods, the cabin, and the animals. No one else to bother them.  And Sam? Murdering his own father? And then watching as the house burnt down?

Possibility #2 – The Carnage of Trauma Strange Ones Theory

I’m not going to bury my lead here. Amanda commented, the first comment actually, and blew my mind with her comment. And here’s what she said, “You are off. Nick is Sam. You need to look deeper.” So let’s just take that at face value. Nick is Sam, and Sam is Nick. How could this work?

If you’ve watched Fight Club, or Mr. Robot, or other fractured psyche type movies, we know that cinema is an interesting way to show the duality of self in unique and mind bending ways. So what if, at a high level, the timeline wasn’t like I posited above, but rather, more like this:

  1. Sam’s mother goes AWOL
  2. Robert abuses Sam
  3. Sam regularly stays with neighbors
  4. Sam is regularly sexually abused by said random neighbors
  5. Sam’s mind splinters, and he begins referring to himself as Nick
  6. Nick grows, and his father is considering a new job out of state
  7. Nick kills Robert, his father
  8. Nick goes on the run, back to his childhood haunts
  9. He’s caught in the cave in a shootout and dies
  10. His younger self mentally explores the world around him as he dies
  11. And as Nick dies, Sam commits suicide in the road

Amanda? Did I get what that would look like right? But there are problems (enormous ones) with this theory. The sexual abuse between Nick and Sam is pretty clear. It’s never shown, but it is definitely happening. Which, breaks my brain to think about. And who are these random neighbors that Sam stayed with if they weren’t Nick? I dig the out of the box thinking here though. Kudos where kudos are due, Amanda.

Possibility #3 – Determinism vs. Free Will Strange Ones Theory

One of the themes of the movie, a repeating cadence in the film, is this idea that you can control your own thoughts, dreams, and past. That all you have to do is will these thoughts into non-existence. Nick says it to Sam first. He obviously knows what happened and why Sam is freaking out. And it is repeated again at the end of the film by this ick-factor-level-10 camp director who tells Sam that he can control his thoughts. Why? What is the movie saying by this mantra? I mean, it’s obviously fiction. Because we cannot obviously just turn off the horrors of our past. Which brings us to free will and determinism…

In the world of Philosophy, there literally is no bigger question than that of free will. Can we decide on our own our thoughts, and our actions? Or are we determined towards some pre-determined path that is grooved into our cranium somehow? This movie is basically positing that despite the horrors and evil of our lives, we can just will it away. Decide that it doesn’t exist. Decide that it would decide our next steps or our outcomes.

But, who cares about philosophy, what happens if we play this theory out, it is just Sam willing things into and out of being. Nothing is firm anymore. And we have to be OK knowing that we can’t know really anything from the perspective of Sam. There is no way to know, because he is capable of changing things at will to suit his interpretation of the world around him.

What do I believe Happened in The Strange Ones?

At the end of the day, I believe Sam was manipulated by Nick to do what he did to his father out of selfish reasons. He setup this utopian idea in Sam’s head of the cabin and the woods. He instructed Sam not to take his father’s beatings lying down and to stand up for himself instead of taking him to the authorities. Nick attempted to keep Sam nearby when his father was ready to move. And it was Robert’s beatings that drove Sam towards Nick and into the sexual abuse that would come from that. Sam, is obviously not a free agent in this movie. This argument of willing memories and actions away? Just utter idiocy. If anything, Sam has been forced into this toppling of dominos. Sam has been beaten emotionally at every turn until no options remain. Like Harris’ comments on free will, Sam too is unaware of the background causes forcing him this way and that.

So we let Sam off the hook for killing his father as an audience. We see the abuse at all sides for what it really is. Again, did I mention that I am definitely NOT recommending this movie? Right. Good. Because I’m not. But it lead to an interesting discussion of some really fantastic philosophical concepts anyway. So there is that. What did you guys think of this movie… those of you that made it through anyway.

Edited by, CY

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31 Responses

  1. Jay

    Agreed, Sam and Nick are one and the same. The advice Gary provides and Nick’s advice confirm this. If you choose either analysis you provided other than this one the movie is fairly weak and I would not recommend it. However……if ya chose The Clockwork Orange twisted Nick/Sam approach it is a suspenseful masterpiece. It would be most interesting to hear the author speak on his work!

    Reply
  2. Harry

    I’m leaning towards theory #1, but I’d argue that Nick didn’t try to convince Sam of killing his father, I’d also add that Sam committed suicide because he couldn’t handle the loss of Nick; evidence of that would be Sams weeping devastation in the bath after he got the news, also him rejecting his friend on the bed (who found out and said that Sam was quote “in love” with Nick!). The ending speaks to the theme of a loveless childhood shaped by abuse, unavoidably ending in tragedy.

    So I don’t think Nick was suppose to be a pedophile (their were several hints throughout) that’s the authorities’ story Sam didn’t contradict, so he would’t become a suspect in the murder. Nick made no advances and told Sam once to put his shirt on and he masturbated in the shower, also the physical examiner stated their was no penetration. In addition to that Sam was jeallous of the girl at the motel, with whome Nick propably slept, so he messed up their residence arrangement. Nick actually portrayed a protective surrogate father, with whome Sam fell “in love”!

    Nick didn’t go to the cops so Sam wouldn’t end up in a foster home and they went on a trip so we’d have a movie.

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  3. Chris

    Perhaps Sam did everything and Nick took the blame. Sam was being abused by his real father and Nick cared for him like a father. Sam fell in love with Nick and when Nick talked about being defensive Sam killed his father. Then called Nick for help who took him away so that he wouldn’t get in trouble. From Sams point of view being in love with Nick perhaps he made the relationship more sexual than it was and in reality Nick was just caring for him. This can be seen with Nick flirting with the motel girl and wanting to stay but Sam lying to the girl saying Nick didn’t want to stay and therefore could also have been lying when saying Nick doesn’t like girls. Sam just said that because he was jealous and by provoking suspicion knew it would make Nick and him have to move away from the girl. Which led to Nick slapping him in frustration because he was helping him but Sam was acting out. Much like a Dad punishing his son in a very tense situation. The sleeping in one bed scene of course gives a sense of pervertedness but perhaps Nick was just comforting like a father does a son helping him sleep. Evidence for this with Nick not sexually abusing Sam is found a couple times. Once in Sams dream watching Nick please himself in the shower. If Nick was abusing Sam he would have no need of “relaxing” in the shower he would easily take advantage of Sam who was already in love with him. Another big flag is when they did a medical examination of Sam and said there was no sexual abuse indicated. One more piece of evidence is found in Sams interview when he lies about Nick killing his father therefore he also could have been lying about Nick touching him pushing the blame for his fathers death off him and onto Nick. Sams suicide could be suggestive of the grief for the death of Nick he loved and the guilt of lying about him.

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  4. Harry

    Agreed completely; thanks for your great elaboration which underlines my thoughts in the comment from March 28th – no more far-fetched speculation, that is what happened in the film!

    Reply
  5. Kassy

    This film is based on the true story of Alex and Derek King, who killed their dad with a baseball bat after being groomed by their paedophile neighbour, the story is very similiar they just changed a few details, look it up. So the original synopsis is correct, all the other bizarre alternate theories are wrong.

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  6. Layden

    This movie was actually adapted from an Original short by the same title. If you search online for “The Strange Ones short movie”, you will be able to find a copy of it. I found it on Dailymotion.

    The movie, which is said to be an original fictional story, is about a young boy and the man who abducted him.

    Reply
  7. Gina

    Kinda agree with Chris up to the point of Sam in the lake. He sees someone across the lake, he doesn’t say anything cuz he is hurt that nick hit him,like his dad did. He is upset to hear nick dies cuz he is regretful.
    Also I wondered if he also killed his dad because he didn’t want to move.
    Just some thoughts.
    Also did agree with the sam is nick thing at one point as well. Guess it’s however you see it

    Reply
  8. The Quick Flick Critic

    “The Strange Ones”: Too Enigmatic for it’s own Good

    I like atmospheric. I like edgy. I like esoteric. I just don’t like to be bludgeoned into a stupor with it. That’s what watching the mega-weird murder mystery drama “The Strange Ones” conspired to do to me.

    The only remotely redeeming aspects to recommend here is the spooky score by a pair of killer flutists and the performance of the great character actor Gene Jones.

    The rest of this plodding trash can be tossed deep into that creepy cave and abandoned.

    Reply
  9. John

    One more thing…why does Sam repeatedly refer to himself as “Jeremiah”? I didn’t like this flick. But it certainly motivated me to reflect. As it evidently did with all on this thread.

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  10. Ron

    Kassy is correct. The duo that wrote, directed and edited the film talked about researching true crime (kidnapping) stories. If it isn’t based on the crime that Kassy mentioned, it’s as close to it as possible.

    I read a book based on that case:

    Manipulative child molester
    Absentee and abusive father
    One of the brothers who was sexually abused believed he was in-love with the abuser
    Fear that the father would stop relationship spurred on by the manipulation of the molester
    Brothers hit their dad over the head with a bat while he’s drinking a beer in his easy chair.

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  11. Vern

    Nick and Sam can’t be the same unless most of the movie is a hallucination or death dream which is kind of a boring, simplistic, deus ex machina kind of thing. If it was “all a dream” than anything else could have happened so why this? If it were that kind of story I would have prefered a more rigid fit like “The Sixth Sense” or “Momento”.

    Just one glaring example is that through out the movie there are people who “see” and interact with both of them together as unique individuals. And no, you can’t rewatch it and see that it’s an “illusion”.

    I have not quite put together or decided on a specific theory about what the freakin’ heck was going on. The coffee cup bugged the heck out of me because it happened once early on setting a possible false tone about this movie… or maybe not false?

    And at the end, crossing the road (I expected credits to roll), then the camp director asking about his arm… what the heck? Wasn’t he out of the camp by then staying at that girls house? Did I have a stroke and miss a few minutes? Or did the editor put a small bit in the wrong spot? I do that all the time in Adobe After Effects.

    I LOVE movies with this type of strange odd structure, but this one went too far. I wandered off into the woods and fell asleep in a cave… woke up in time to see the credits and still scratching my head.

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  12. Brianna

    Nick is in Sams head he made him up to help him cope even killed him for his mind to make him more real … remember the dinner where Nicks cup disappeared? Nick kept trying to yell sam he isn’t real. Sam made them romantic then took it away because it wasn’t right … the people they encountered only really talked to Sam and gave him funny looks when he responded as if someone was there … the director tried to make it seem like nick was real but he was never there!

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  13. Shell

    The girl that owned the hotel obviously saw Nick. There is no way to unexplain that. Also the neighbor girl referred to Nick as well. I want to know, what was up with the black cat? None of you have mentioned it.

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  14. Maryann Elizabeth

    I liked the movie very much, even though it’s based on a very dark subject matter, I can appreciate that it was not made obvious until towards the end. I also liked how they did not include any explicit/disturbing scenes showing this but rather, it’s implied. The movie was vague in many aspects (but that was the point anyway) but in my opinion not to the extent that I thought Sam had a shattered psyche and everything I saw on screen for 90 minutes was not what it had appeared to be. I took it for what it was. No theories needed. The film makers, writers and ESPECIALLY the two main actors did a superb job.

    BTW I believe this movie was loosely based or at least heavily inspired by a case here in my home state of Florida from back in 2001. A lot of the plot seems to share many of the same details as this case:
    https://www.thoughtco.com/alex-and-derek-king-972684

    Reply
  15. Killian Courtney

    Definitely and 100% about Alex King and Rick Chavis. They cut out the parts involving his brother Derek. From the bat to the head, fire and being manipulated, molested and hidden by Rick Chavis. Almost exact except for some dramatic additions.

    Reply
  16. Killian Courtney

    The story is about Alex King and Rick Chavis. The only fiction is Alex’s suicide and leaving out his brother Derek. Even the cult, which was really a sanctuary for kids who committed murder, is a real place…Estrella Vista. this ain’t rocket science folks, it’s called google.

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  17. Bb

    I have spent WAY too much time trying to decipher ‘what was what’ in this movie. For a long time, I had the same theory as two other commenters above had — that it was actually the boy who was gay and in love with the man, while the man was more of a surrogate father wanting to protect the boy. I never thought the “they were the same person” theory was right, but I did wonder whether my theory was wrong and it was actually the man abusing the boy.

    To my understanding, the 2017 long film is based on the 2011 short film. So I just watched the 2011 short (thanks to the person who put the link above), and in the short it seems more clear (at the end) that the man is the abuser. So apparently my theory that the man was a surrogate father was wrong. He was in fact abusing the boy.

    That’s my take now anyway, after watching the short. Although I’m only about 90% sure. Lol.

    Reply
  18. Ashley

    As I thought about if Nick was real or not, and started going back to scenes to verify that nobody mentions Nick by name but Sam, one thing that seems to stand out in favor of Nick IS Sam.

    At the end while talking to the head of the camp (which is a troubled teens work camp) the counselor says “how is your arm?”

    At no point does it show Sam sustaining an arm injury. It does however, show Nick being shot in the arm in the woods.

    Reply
  19. Adam R

    Wow, I read all the comments above and feel Nick was real and not an abuser, but Ashley’s point above just made me doubt.

    Also, the teen work camp thing confuses me. He just happened to walk up onto a teen work camp? Or was he sent there by the court system? Why does he tell his friend he would like to try farming and raising animals. When he mentioned that, I felt like he was he or she should have said “since i was just doing it” or “since i was just at that camp”

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  20. Guil

    Well… you missed the animals…
    The black cat is always there… ( cat is the symbol of femininity, Black cat is of course symbol of witchcraft, curse… and it follows and leads…anywhere)
    the deer Nick hits is the same the one his dad shot.

    Besides, Sam is leading everything, he’s lying a lot, he makes up his own reality. I think he’s in love with Nick (Jealous of the girl, devastated when he dies) even if I think he’s treated like an imaginary friend.
    Everybody is following Sam, works with him, he’s the only one “free” in this story. Nick wants to stay, Sam wants to go, they go. Sam stops the car, Sam runaway, Sam decides not to give real names (Nick does, and Sam calls him stupid…)
    And before killing his dad… he’s locked up in his room. Nick just tells him not to watch, it goes with “you decide what is true and what is not.

    Even if it’s based on a true story (camp looks like a thing for juvenile delinquents, but the symbol is to start over, to make new things grow, to create life…), the cave is the real symbole of the whole thing.

    The whole movie/story is told through Plato’s allegory of the cave… through Sam’s eyes and mind.

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  21. Anna

    Kassy is correct. This is an adaptation of the Alex and Derek King true story. Sam is Alex. Nick’s character is a pawn used to portray Derek (the older brother) as well as the pedophile neighbor. The teens changed their story several times especially Alex who once admitted to being the mastermind. Alex was even so clever as to alter is grammer in writing to make himself appear to be even more of a victim. He was truly a victim due to the convicted pedophile neighbors grooming and sexual assault. Look up Estrella Vista. That was the camp in the film. That’s why the old man welcomed alex so warmly and was trying to help him as a counselor would. Much like the founder of Estrella Vista in Texas. So Sam is not Nick. Nick is pedophile but at the same time he isn’t. You’d have to learn more about the King brothers case. Hope this helps.

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  22. Nikola Novak

    “The sexual abuse between Nick and Sam is pretty clear. It’s never shown, but it is definitely happening. Which, breaks my brain to think about.”

    That’s a strange thing to say these days as evidence is overwhelming that people who have been abused as children abuse themselves as adults through various addictions, sexual behavior, even by cutting themselves or otherwise physically hurting themselves on purpose.

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  23. Matthew G.

    I just finished the movie and turned it off half way thru…to me , it was way too convaluted and incoherent. So I jumped online to see what it was actually about when I came across this page…and with a combination of your 3 scenarios and allowing the film to run onin on background, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that the characters are one and the same…unfortunately this movie fails in its attempt to illicit a thought provoking story of nature vs nurture….IMO there was alot of smoke and mirrors in the build up to the last 10 mins. Here’s my summary of why Nick = Sam…

    I didn’t get it until Sam walks up to the cave at the end…and then it hit me…Nick said he stayed there one night after running from his father and didnt remember anything except he “CAME OUT” a different person from then on…To me this is two fold…Nick losthis life and his innocence there after accepted that he was sexually abused and attracted to males…I also think this movie isn’t a real time story but more like a visual autobiography in a way…just like this happened to this person…not this is happening while we watch so to speak.

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  24. Chad

    The reason so many people on Letterboxd and other movie apps come away from the film thinking it’s “trying too hard” to have more meaning than it actually does is because they believe the movie is to be taken literally… or, as in Theory 1.
    I could see why that might be a common opinion IF that was indeed the reality of the film.

    However, this film does weave actually memories with Sam’s fractured view of his neighbor and his brother (Derek), as well as the allegory of the cave (as noted previously by another commenter).
    – The cave is a key visual element. As is the reappearance of the cat, and the appearances of deer in the film.

    Sam is trying to come to terms with the events, and to do so he is having to sort through and resee “memories” that have been fracture and previously reinterpreted from reality. This film is that unfolding. Thats why scenes are scattered, and come to him in pieces.

    But again… the cave. At the end, he enters the cave and as noted previously by the Nick character, it’s from there that everything will come out. He knows to enter into it as a means to clarify everything. But it took everything he sees/experiences in the film to get to that point.

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  25. Garnet

    Thank you for sharing your review T.H. and for taking the time to fully present the various plot perspectives. Powerfully expressed.
    After watching the film I wanted to see what others thought, so, here I am. Firstly, the direction, performances and editing were moving, incredibly well-done. However, this is a movie which is dealing with the extremely horrendous subjects (abuse, murder, manipulation, mental illness, grief), depicted in a quiet and humanistic way. I agree, the directors and screenplay appear to convey all of the above are taking place within the film.

    I had the impression Sam was beaten by his father, as some totally reprehensible, lack of parenting — the father couldn’t cope that his son was gay. It’s horrible. His son was becoming a person he couldn’t relate to, or control. I disagree with the commentor who felt Nick was not having a sexual relationship with Sam. As the audience, we see the uncomfortable intimacy (this is child abuse); clearly, one does have more influence over this situation, both are emotionally manipulating each other to a degree, in a deeply twisted relationship. I’m not going to explain how the physical exam given to Sam would not disprove the extent of what may have taken place between Sam and Nick. There are many hints, which is what the film-makers have taken time to weave into this story. In particular, around 20 minutes in, Sam is disgusted with Nick for his attraction and encouragement of the young woman who is the caretaker there; Nick covers his own face (shame) with his hands and sighs… Like a lover who has been caught and reprimanded for being “unfaithful”. Yep. Truly uncomfortable and wrong, between this man and a preteen boy. I agree that there are two main perspectives to this tale and it appears the film-makers’ intended to make us think all of this at once; these plot events happened to the characters we are watching. We are made to feel there must have also been a person who represented Nick in Sam’s life and Nick is likely Sam as a grown up… Reminds me a bit of David Lynch’s, “Mulholland Drive”, plot events happened, they were also twisted in memory to the main character’s view, ultimately, that character is the one who is entering their own abyss.

    (The camp seems self explanatory to me, a structured place where troubled kids are rehabilitated with care)

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  26. AIMEE

    The plot is plain as day. Nick and Sam are in a relationship. Even though it’s illegal and morally wrong. Sam is physically abused by his dad and kills him because he doesn’t want to move because he’s in love with Nick, and has obvious psychological problems from being abused physically, emotionally, and sexually. After things don’t work out and it’s not like he imagined and hoped, Sam commits suicide and the whole wayward camp thing is his conscious/imagination and the.end scene with the cave symbolizes Sam joining Nick in the afterlife. You’re welcome everyone! 😉

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  27. Carolyn

    You’re making it too complicated. Maybe Sam killed his father and Nick came in or maybe Nick came in while Sams father was abusing Sam… Nick cares about Sam in a paternal or fraternal way. People are way too quick to presume if some one cares about a non-related person, it’s perverted. Try looking at the movie with your mind out of the gutter. Sam was so screwed up, he caused Nick to be killed. He grew up abused and no one in the neighborhood helped him. Sam was schizophrenic.

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