NOTE: This Spoiler was sent in by Odile who calls this film, among other things..."bloody confusing"
Because it's so mixed up, I decided to start with the "Cut to the Chase" and also include another spoiler from TheBrav . Between the two of them, you should be able to figure out this crazy film.
CUT TO THE CHASE: Henry Letham (Ryan Gosling) was driving along the Brooklyn Bridge on his 21st birthday. In the car were his girlfriend, Athena (to whom he was going to propose marriage) and his parents (in the back seat). One of the front tires blew out, causing him to lose control of the car. It flipped over and caught on fire. He was thrown from the vehicle and lay dying on the street; everyone else in the car was killed instantly. Henry is vaguely aware of what's going on, but his surroundings are blurring and morphing into his subconscious. The random bystanders and rubberneckers become characters in his "life": the doctor bending over him (Sam Foster/Ewan MacGregor) becomes his psychiatrist; the random nurse (Lila/Naomi Watts) who jumped out of her own car to help becomes Sam's girlfriend, and Sam and Lila live in an apartment building where the architectural motifs match those of the Brooklyn Bridge that Henry is staring up at. And so on. Henry is racked with guilt over what just happened and blames himself for the accident - in his fantasy/nightmare, he has murdered his parents and plans to kill himself.
Of course, we don't know any of this going in. The actual film unfolds thusly:
A car flips over on the Brooklyn Bridge and bursts into flames. Henry Letham sits, unharmed, in the road in front of it. And then he gets up and walks away.
He morphs into Sam Foster, who is just waking up in his apartment. He tells his girlfriend, Lila, over the phone that he had a hard time sleeping because the neighbor's baby kept him awake all night. Lila points out that their neighbors are in their 90s.
Sam hops on his bicycle and rides over the Brooklyn Bridge to his office. Come to find out, he is a psychiatrist who is filling in for another psychiatrist named Beth Levy. In the office is Henry Letham, a pale, Goth looking dude who demands, "who the hell are you?" Henry believes that he scared Beth off, but he won't tell Sam why. Looking at his file, Sam asks him why he torched his car. Henry tells Sam that he wants to leave before the hail starts. Uh, hail?
Sam tries to reach Beth Levy, but she is not available.
Sam and Lila are sitting in a courtyard and Lila is telling a story about a king, a farmer and a moose while she is sketching Sam's portrait. When she finishes it, she pronounces it awful and crumples it up. Sam is all, "oh, no! it's terrific!" and as he takes it out of her hand he catches her wrist and we see her bright white razor scars and then it starts hailing like mad.
On the subway, Henry lights up a cigarette. A man asks him to put it out; Henry ignores him. The man persists until Henry finally stubs the lit end out on his own arm. "You ought to be locked up, asshole!" the man says, and he can't get away from Henry fast enough.
The next day, Henry unexpectedly visits Sam at his (Sam's) office. Henry announces that he's been hearing voices so Sam asks him to write down what he's been hearing. Henry ends up writing down the exchange that Sam has over the intercom with his next patient. And then Henry says over the voices that we and he hears, "I know you're not supposed move them…" Henry announces that he is going to kill himself in three days' time at midnight on Saturday.
Sam goes to Bellevue (?) to see a doctor friend of his (played by B.D. Wong) about having Henry taken into custody for his own protection. They agree that since they cannot hold him indefinitely, they will take him into custody on Friday.
Outside of his apartment, Sam sees some piano movers. A little boy walking past them loses his helium balloon.
Sam meets Henry at one of his classes the teacher is showing slide after slide of death scenes in fine art (particularly of Goya's " Execution of Rebels of the 3rd of May," where the man who is about to be killed is the focus of the work.) As Henry and Sam are walking (there are several sets of triplets in the background go figure), Sam quizzes him about his background: Family? "They're dead. I thought you read my file." Girlfriend? No, but there was this one waitress, Athena, who served him coffee and was always kind to him.
Sam is playing chess with a colleague, Leon, who is blind. Sam is toying with an engagement ring and Leon asks him how long he's been carrying it around. Henry shows up unexpectedly and freaks out. He insists that Leon is his dead father. Sam tries to calm him down.
They finally do break into Henry's apartment, but he is not there. Instead, they find some bullets, some blankets on the floor and all over the wall in teeny tiny writing it says, "forgive me." There is one message on Henry's answering machine it's from Sam. It says, "Henry, hold on. It's going to be all right, just hold on." Sam denies ever leaving the message. Henry is missing, and Sam is frantic to find him.
Sam visits Henry's mother in New Jersey. The house is empty except for this great big dog, Olive. Henry's mother seems to believe that Sam is Henry. Her head starts bleeding and when Sam tries to help her, Olive bites his arm. The sheriff (?) tells him that he couldn't have visited Mrs. Letham because she died months ago. And Henry always gave him the creeps. Sam follows him out the door and into… Grand Central station?!
Sam gets home and Lila makes him go to bed. He sleeps for a few hours. He leaves his apartment and sees the piano movers again, and the little boy who lost his balloon again (omg déjà vu!)
Sam gets into a cab making stops at every diner on Canal Street, looking for a waitress called Athena. Finally, one woman directs him to an acting class. In a classroom, a young woman and a man are reading Hamlet aloud, she in the Hamlet part. When they are finished, Sam snarks that he always thought Hamlet was a man's part. She, who turns out to be Athena, says, "This is the lesbian version. (har har) No, actually, I'm playing Ophelia."
Sam tells her about Henry; Athena remembers him, and recalls that Henry used to hang out at a certain bookshop… Sam follows Athena out and he falls down a weird spiral staircase and hits his head and loses the engagement ring. He runs back up the stairs and into the rehearsal room he enters the classroom to a young woman and a man are reading Hamlet aloud, she in the Hamlet part the exact same place that he did before. He runs out.
On Park Avenue, Sam passes the bookstore that Athena told him about and pounds on the door until they let him in. The owner (Smitty?) says that Henry used to hang out there all the time. Henry didn't have much money, so he traded in some art for books. The owner points out a rendition of the Brooklyn Bridge that adorns the shop. Sam learns that Henry was obsessed with an artist called Tristan [Something], who killed himself on his 21 st birthday on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Henry is in a strip club scenes from Henry's life are flashing on the screen behind him ("Angel" by Massive Attack is playing in the background.) He is weeping. He leaves and walks in the rain. He stops outside a rehearsal space that has a huge picture window. Some dancers, including Athena, are rehearsing; Henry watches her longingly for a while.
Henry arrives at Leon's apartment. Leon tells him to leave but Henry insists that he (Leon) is actually Henry's father. Henry presses his fingers over Leon's eyes and suddenly Leon can see. They embrace and Henry tells him that he loves him, and asks Leon to tell his mother that he loves her.
Out on the street, Henry is looking in a shop window at engagement rings. His head starts gushing blood. All the passersby stop and stare at him. The little boy who lost his balloon appears again and says, "Mommy, is that man going to die?"
Sam arrives at Beth Levy's apartment. When she doesn't answer, he breaks in. She is pretty much a basket case, wrapped up in a blanket with the blinds closed.
Sam is at a payphone. Leon appears and says to Sam, "I always thought you had brown eyes!" Sam calls Lila and tells her that he loves her, then he runs to the Brooklyn Bridge where he finds Henry holding a gun. Sam tries to stop him, but Henry says, "I'm sorry you had to see this…" and puts the barrel in his mouth and pulls the trigger…
And then we're out of Henry's head and back into "reality": Henry is lying on the road and Sam is a doctor who happened to be driving on the bridge; Lila is a nurse who also tries to help. Beth Levy is a random woman who was driving right behind him, and all the characters in the movie are rubberneckers (including the little boy with the helium balloon.) An engagement ring falls out of Henry's wallet. Henry hears the tinkling sound it makes and asks if it's hail. Lila puts it in his hand her face morphs into Athena's and he asks her to marry him. She accepts. Henry says, "forgive me," but Sam tells him emphatically that it was totally an accident and that it wasn't his fault. Henry dies.
Finally, the paramedics arrive. As they are loading the bodies into the ambulances, Lila, crying, says, "No one has ever asked me to marry them before." Sam shrugs and invites her to get coffee with him. "I don't think I'll be able to sleep after this." She accepts. The end.
NOTE: This Spoiler was sent in by TheBrav who says..."I am guessing there are a select few moviegoers who will enjoy this film, I was not one of them. If you liked Eye of the Beholder then you will enjoy this rudderless film which strains to be mysterious but ends up simply confused. Do not be taken in by the film's advertisement as this film has nothing to do with limbo or spirits. There are plenty of clues throughout the film that there is something very wrong. Some audio doesn't quite fit right, there's stuttering images, blurry distant shots interlaced with clear up-close shots, Sam's pants are too short, simulated twins and triplets appear, voices in your head, etc ... but you're thrown off by the expectations established by the supernatural tagline. That said, here's the synopsis."
The film begins with a flashback style scene of a car crash on a bridge. Throughout the film we revisit elements of that scene both audibly and visually. We then follow 'Sam Foster' (Ewan McGregor) around as he enters a building and walks into an office coming face-to-face with 'Henry Letham.' (Ryan Gosling) Henry is upset that his normal therapist, Dr. Beth Levy, (Janeane Garofalo) will no longer be seeing him and asks, 'is she afraid of me now?' Sam calmly explains he's taking her overflow and reads his file. Henry is unconvinced and looks out at the sunny scene outside and says, 'gotta go soon, looks like hail.' Sam tells him, 'wait, we have more time ... you will come back won't you?' to which Henry replies, 'we'll see.' Then Sam looks out and see's someone on a bench down below - the camera zooms in and blends the images together to transport us from the window looking down to first person on the bench. (note: Throughout the film there are transitions of this nature whereby one scene or person is blended into the next for a continuos, somewhat overlapping timeline).
Sam is on the bench with Lila (Naomi Watts) who sketches a picture of him - she then attempts to destroy it saying, 'it's crap.' He saves the drawing and reassures her, she is obviously very insecure about herself. They are unexpectedly interrupted by a hail storm.
The film follows Sam as he interacts with numerous characters including his girlfriend Lila, an art teacher with scarred wrists from an attempted suicide. The characters are given very ornate histories and complexities to further reinforce the imagination of the creator. Sam reads Henry's profile to Lila and points out a statement from an art teacher 'he's a remarkable talent with an active imagination and when he's ready he'll create new worlds for us to share.' Lila immediately strikes out the comment saying, 'professor so-and-so says things like that about all of his good looking male students that he hopes to sleep with.' He also learns that Henri's hero is a 20th century artist and asks Lila about him, she tells him that nobody ever saw his work, because he destroyed it. Sam tries to call the original therapist, Beth but she won't answer or return calls.
The next day Sam is in his office trying to call Beth between appointments and is interrupted by Henry. Sam had an engagement ring on the desk and Henry says 'where did you get that' with a clear look of recognition, 'I bought it why?' Henry doesn't answer but reveals he's going to kill himself on Saturday at Midnight. Sam asks about his parents to which Henry replies, 'they're dead ... I thought you read the file,' Sam is willing to cancel his appointments but Henry says no then relents a little by telling Sam, you have three days to convince me otherwise - don't seek me, I'll find you. Henry leaves him with a couple of phrases including a cliche sounding fortune.
He goes into the apartment via an alley while some piano movers hoist a piano upwards. Lila and Sam are in her apartment and she is eating Chinese food while he is trying to call Beth again. He picks up a glass but doesn't drink or eat. She's asking him to open up but he's unwilling because of the suicide threat and patient-client confidentiality. She tells him, 'he wants to kill himself doesn't he?' to which Sam admits this is true. Lila wants to talk to him and tells him that only someone who's been there can talk to him and retells her story. She gives him advise to tell him, 'there's too much beauty in the world to leave.' He nods and doesn't eat but opens the fortune cookie discovering the same cliche he'd been told by Henry.
Then Sam pops in on Henry at an art class about Goya (dark subject matter) and another weird effect takes place as the people exiting the classroom are pseudo-triplets (same height, look, clothes). They chat and Henry is off again. The next major scene is used in the trailers with Sam playing chess with Leon. Henry interrupts them and is shocked to see Leon saying, 'you're dead' ... 'don't you think I recognize my own father?'
More interlude between Sam and other characters, then a pop-in by Henry at the apartment. After he leaves the building we see some piano movers hoisting a piano upwards. A young boy with a balloon sees Henry and says, 'mommy is that man going to die' 'I hope not honey,' she replies. We see the boy and his mom several times during the movie. Sam rushes out of the building and sees the piano movers but no Henry. He asks them whether or not they were there the day before and the head mover says, 'look we're busy here.'
Sam enter's Beth's apartment and finds her a mess, she mumbles 'I didn't do anything wrong ...' The scene doesn't add much except to point out another spot-on prediction from Henry. We're reminded that Henry didn't have a girlfriend but kinda sorta felt like he had a connection with a girl named Athena from a coffee shop he frequented. Time is running out and Sam tries to commit him over the weekend. He and Dr. Ren visit Henry's apartment, it's small, bare, and empty. All four walls are filled with tiny print (looks like a pattern because it's so symmetrical) 'I am so sorry.' There are also a few examples of Henry's art - impressionistic and blurred. One of the assistants comments that the art is good stuff. Dr. Ren says he'll notify the police but they won't do anything about it. Now it's a race for Sam to find Henry and stop him from killing himself.
Sam takes a cab to numerous coffeehouse asking for Athena. One waitress says, 'are you a cop' then barters with him for her location - prescription pills for Athena's whereabouts. Sam enters an old building with Athena and a man reviewing lines from Hamlet. The actor leaves and Sam approaches her, she thinks he looks familiar. They chat and she finally remembers her customer saying that he liked to visit a bookstore nearby. She volunteers to take him there and leads him down a spiral staircase - she moves faster and faster and they don't get anywhere - then she's gone - now it's vertigo, up is down, down is up - Sam trips and the engagement ring falls out.
He goes back upstairs and the previous scene repeats itself, Sam realizes this phenomenon and leaves. He sees an impressionistic painting of a bridge tower in a bookstore and enters the store. The owner is a character who previously interacted with Henry, but in that scene there was no familiarity between them. Now, he points out that Henry came in and bought all his books on the 20th century artist he admired but couldn't pay, so they traded for the painting. Sam needs to center himself so he tries to see Lila and the film skips and stutters forward where he learns that the artist moved to New York and killed himself. Sam is back in a cab and gets a call from Henry's mom, she's alive and he heads out to see her.
Henry enters Leon's house and asks about his mother, Leon is confused and doesn't understand what he means. Henry grabs Leon and says, 'I just want you to look at me ONE TIME.' He then rubs the blindness out of Leon as he hugs him before leaving, Leon is awe-struck. Then Henry walks into the rainy city and watches Athena dance with a mysterious man. The dance finishes and the man walks away from Athena, she's left a little scared and seemingly unfulfilled.
Henry's mother is on the porch of a large empty house and she addresses Sam as if he is Henry, 'you look different and don't recognize me, has it been so long?' She leads him into the house where a large dog growls at him, she offers him food but the fridge is empty. She continues to talk to him as if he is Henry then her head begins to bleed from the side and she collapses. The dog attacks Sam as he attends to her and then we're snapped to a triage in a large ornate building (like a college would have, not a hospital). The police officer repeats his questions regarding the address and who he spoke to, then reveals he knows the family well and went to the double funeral. Sam runs out and finds himself in the city and calls Lila to ask her how Henry's hero killed himself, 'on the Brooklyn bridge after he'd burned all his paintings - he said that his suicide would be the greatest art statement of the 20th century.' Sam gets off the phone and comes face to face with Leon - who can see. He tells him that Henry fixed his eyes as Sam rushes towards the bridge.
Sam catches up to Henry to tell him, 'I was wrong, I can't tell the difference between reality and fantasy.' Henry asks why his arm is bandaged and Sam says he met with his Mom at such-and-such address and was bitten by Molly. Of course, Molly was put down 11 years ago. San and Henry continue to squabble as Henry holds him off with his gun and reiterates 'I killed them, it's my fault ... this is reality' (puts the gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger).
Now we're back at the beginning experiencing the accident, Athena is his girlfriend who he was planning on proposing to - in the back-seat are his parents whom Athena is asking, 'how do you two still love each other after so many years.' CRASH - nasty, violent deaths for all passengers. For the conclusion I will use the actor's names since the suicide triggers Henry to wake up and face reality.
As he comes to, we hear Janeane Garafalo say, 'I didn't do anything wrong, I didn't move him ... I heard you're not supposed to move them.' Henry is laying beside the car and looking up at everyone. The faces match the reoccurring characters from movie such as the little boy and his mother, the piano mover, the woman saying, 'he's just a kid,' etc ... Apparently, the entire movie was created by Henry in the split seconds between life and death - similar to when you're involved in a car accident and can vividly recall every millisecond from the event.
Ewan McGregor identifies himself as a doctor and tries to comfort Henry along with Naomi Watts who is a nurse. You can tell that it's pretty grim and basically the two of them are trying to keep him comfortable until the paramedics arrive - but as time passes you realize they'll be too late. Henry struggles for something by his hand (the engagement ring) until Ewan puts it in his fingers. A disorientated Henry proposes to Naomi Watts and she accepts with tears in her eyes as her face morphs back and forth with Elizabeth Reaser. Henry is struggling to stay alive and muttering, 'it's my fault, I killed them' and then Sam tells him, 'it's not your fault ... I saw everything as it happened ... you're tire blew and the car behind you was too close ... it's not your fault.' Henry settles down and we see imagery from the film translated into the paintings we'd seen. A few gasps and some really sensitive people saying, 'he's not going to make it' walking away. Henry seems to die as he looks up at Sam and Naomi.
Naomi tells Sam that she's never been proposed to before and Sam says, 'listen I'm not going to sleep at all tonight - would you like to get a cup of coffee?' She says, 'I'd like that.' You see the quick flashback of two people in a coffeehouse. You see a confused look on Sam's face but I noticed that Henry's face wasn't covered on the gurney. Therefore, either he had one last vision/fantasy - or - this really is all his imagination and NOTHING was real ... both statements fit in with the teacher's comments.
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