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The ending of All Creatures Here Below really screwed me up, and it’s been festering in my brain for about a week now. (Okay, technically, I’m already screwed up, and this just raised the issue.) I need to get it off my chest. As I mentioned in a prior post, I rented it, saw it, had to watch it a second time, and now have no intention of watching it again. While the last part of that statement seems like an insult, everyone involved in this movie should take it as a great compliment. This movie was fantastic; it was just too much for me to have to watch again. I think anyone who knows me well would be shocked to hear me say something like that, but there it is.
Before you read further, please note that this is one of those few movies that I’m glad I saw spoiler-free. If you’re at all spoiler-averse, you should stop reading now and watch the movie. If not, you’re robbing yourself of a process that made the movie even better for me. I watched it once, tolerating the typical humdrum character and story development necessary to start any film, was hit with the twist towards the end (which I won’t spoil here), and then was hit with the ending. At that point, I knew I had to watch it again, which completely changed how I saw the start of the movie. It was no longer humdrum; rather, almost every moment became disturbing. As you’ll soon understand, my second time through was enough for me. I’ll probably never watch it a third time.
The two main characters, Gensan and Ruby, are bad people. They really are. They committed crimes, both minor and heinous, throughout the movie. I should be rooting for their downfall, but as I’ve pointed out, this movie demonstrates how complex issues can get. While I don’t waiver one bit on the position that they should both be in prison, the screenwriting (David Dastmalchian) and directing (Collin Schiffli), and acting (Dastmalchian and Karen Gillan) cause a conflict in my brain. I feel bad for these people, probably because I know that the emotion the characters are feeling are ones with which we can all sympathize. They deserve to be in prison because of their actions, but how they emotionally respond to their own actions, as well as how tough their circumstances are, are relatable. Some of you may even share those circumstances. This makes the ending scene even more difficult for me to watch.
Even for those of us that have never had a major death in our lifetimes, I think most of us can appreciate the finality associated with it. Once a person dies, that’s it. Even if you’re religious, for all practical purposes that person is gone forever. You won’t see them again during your lifetime. This inspires a very common sentiment: “What I wouldn’t give for just five more minutes with [person].” Depending on the relationship, you may want to spend that five minutes kissing, hugging, or just talking to that person. Perhaps you want to tell them one more time how you feel about them, or you just want to sit back and enjoy the wisdom that they often imparted. Regardless of what you need from that five minutes, you need that five minutes.
And that’s what kills me. In that ending scene, Gensan is living in what should have been those five minutes. In his twisted mind, he had to kill her. Even assuming that’s reasonable (it isn’t), he didn’t have to kill her at that precise moment. He could have kept her alive for another five minutes. Even for a guy who was so emotionally stunted, I think he, like all of us in our own ways, would appreciate just a few more minutes with her, but unlike us, he’s the reason he doesn’t have those five minutes.
Moreover, despite Ruby’s mangled corpse being out of view, we all know intellectually what Gensan is looking at when he’s staring down at the ground. However, the directing (I think that’s where the credit lies) of the film is magnificent in making sure we connect emotionally with that scene. Ruby falls to the ground after the initial (brutal) strike. She gets hit again, and we see only her right hand clutching the grass. Then she’s hit a third time, and her hand is limp. On the fourth and final strike, it simply bounces a bit from the impact. We see her brutal death occur without the blood and guts, but we can’t ignore the brutality of it. Gensan is looking right at the product of his own handiwork knowing that he didn’t have to do it, or at least didn’t have to do it before spending five minutes saying a proper goodbye.
Then he reads the letter. I didn’t fully process the letter the first time I watched the movie, but the second time, it took an already twisted scene and made it even worse. Ruby gets to have those five minutes in a sense, because her letter gets to tell Gensan how she feels about him. If Gensan didn’t yet want to say a proper goodbye to Ruby, he must want to now. He must also be overwhelmed by his own betrayal. She saw him as her “knight in shining armor,” but he failed her in that regard in the worst way imaginable. To do that to someone you love so much must feel awful. In fact, I can’t think of a word to use in place of “awful” that can fully describe what he must be feeling.
All of this could have been delayed just five minutes. How bad would you feel if you could have had five more minutes after your loss? Even assuming nothing criminal on your part, how much worse would you feel if the reason you didn’t have those five minutes was because of your own impulsive, stupid actions?
It May Be Even Worse
As if all of that isn’t bad enough, it may be even worse. Gensan may have to relive this pain over again. Let’s say he gets exceptionally lucky and serves only twenty years in prison. Assuming he’s thirty years old, he’s out at fifty (just a bit younger than I am now), with on average (statistically speaking) twenty-six years left of life on this planet. On the day he’s granted parole and knows he’s getting out, something’s going to hit him: If he could have gotten lucky, perhaps Ruby could have as well. She could have also been getting out of prison at some time (if not the same time), so they could have decades of those “five minutes” together if not for his short-sighted actions.
He’s going to have to relive that same pain again, knowing that he robbed himself and her of that time together, as well as everything else that goes along with life. How could you live with that?
Everyone has their pain, and I’m no exception, but my greatest pain dwarves the rest of it. In fact, I’d say that pain defines me. Several movies have occasionally tugged on that particular heart-string. I won’t share it here, but I’ll assure you that it involved no criminal behavior on anyone’s part. Nevertheless, no movie has hit that pain as hard as this movie did. Perhaps that makes me like this movie more than you will, but I still encourage people to watch it. Even if you’ve just spoiled it for yourself, there’s a twist I haven’t spoiled, and the ending should still be a powerful watch for you.
I give this movie a solid A.
America’s Sugar Addiction
To lighten the mood, there was one other thing that was disturbing about the movie, but in a funny way. To avoid spoilers, I’ll just say this: Ruby, c’mon! You’re still watching TV and eating a Baby Ruth? Can’t you put it down for just a few minutes? 😊