Welcome to the Ending Explained for After.Life is a psychological thriller directed by Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo and starring Christina Ricci, Justin Long, and Liam Neeson. The film comes from an idea by Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo, who also wrote the screenplay herself. The film has become one of those cult classics that find their audience way after they run in theaters and in-home media. The film has managed to gather quite a following thanks to its confusing nature and unsettling atmosphere, which could be actually the best elements of the film.
The film tells a story about one of the biggest themes in the narrative, Death. A universal concept that affects every single being on the planet and beyond. Everything has a beginning, and everything has an end, and this movie tries to explore just how we, as individuals approach death.
Of course, the movie also tries to be a psychological thriller that plays with the audience’s perception. The most normal reaction to the film once the credits roll is confusion, and with good reason, because the movie never really gives a proper solution to its setup, and it actually throws clues in every direction, making the story more of a “choose your own ending” kind of story.
The following paragraphs contain spoilers for After.Life. Read at your own risk.
Is Elliot A Serial Killer?
There are two very possible solutions to the mystery of the movie. Let’s explore each of them, and then you will decide which one you find fits better with your experience. And also, let’s propose a third solution that could make sense of this messy but intriguing film. The movie’s setup begins by introducing us to Elliot, a mortician who takes his job very seriously.
During his introduction, we see that Elliot is methodical and has a very particular quality; he likes to speak to the people he is preparing to bury. This could be seen as a very creepy thing to do or just a way for Elliot to pass the time, as he is probably surrounded more by the dead than the living.
As the movie progresses, we get introduced to the characters of Anna and her boyfriend, Paul. We see them having some very awkward moments together. They look like a couple, but they don’t feel like it. We see that Anna doesn’t enjoy having sex with Paul, for example, and she seems to be going through the motions with the relationship. Anna is not happy, and she feels trapped and scared about continuing with Paul, but she won’t end the relationship either.
When he finally decides to ask for her hand in marriage, she gets angry and runs from the restaurant where the proposal took place. She gets in her car all drunk and drives.
At this point, there is an important detail coming. A white van follows Anna, and it is implied that this van makes her crash. Later, the movie also implies that this is Elliot’s van, which gives weight to the theory that he is a serial killer looking for people to kill. But why? Why Anna?
We’ll talk about that later. A series of conversations follows where Anna and Elliot talk about life. It seems that Anna is ready to die, as she doesn’t see anything good to live for, not her job, not her boyfriend, or anything else. And so Elliot tries to convince her that she is dead and must be buried.
Anna tries to escape the morgue several times, but she fails. During this entire time, Elliot acts casually, as if he isn’t afraid of getting caught. This is very strange, as even serial killers try to keep their work a secret for the most part. He even lets her go out of her own volition.
However, when Elliot has finally convinced her that she is dead, he shows her a mirror, and she sees her breath condensate in the mirror, which to Anna, is an indication that she is alive. Anna screams as she is buried and knocks on the coffin, but no one listens.
From all these clues, it seems Elliot is a killer, and he uses drugs and his own manipulation skills to make his victims believe that they are dead, and then he buries them alive.
Can Elliot Speak With The Dead?
At some point during their conversations, Elliot explains that he can speak with the dead. This ability made him choose the career of a mortician, and he justified his actions to help the dead transition to the afterlife.
This supernatural aspect is very controversial because it could be taken as Elliot trying to manipulate their victims or that, in fact, he possesses this ability. During the story, we meet Jack, one of Anna’s students, who also has strange visions of things that are supposed to be dead, but he sees them alive.
Elliot takes Jack under his wing by the film’s end and promises to teach him everything about their abilities. Is Elliot really teaching him how to deal with the dead, or is he teaching him to be a future serial killer?
Anna has visions of ghosts and other elements that point to her being a ghost, but the main clue about her being actually dead is, in fact, the clue that most people used to argue that she is alive, the breath on the mirror. One big subject of the film is that no matter how much we say that we are ready for death, we are not ready.
Anna says that she has never been happy and is not afraid of death because she has nothing to live for. Paul says the same thing after he gets the news that Anna is dead. He says he cannot live without her. However, when actually facing the fact that he is going to die or that he is already dead, Paul doesn’t accept death as a release but faces fear.
Both Anna and Paul cling to their lives no matter what, even when they are not really living in the first place. Our survival instinct is stronger than we think. So, the breath in the mirror can mean that Anna sees herself as alive, and Elliot is definitely trying to make her accept the truth. That she is dead.
A third possibility to this entire affair is that Elliot is a serial killer looking for people who are already dead inside and behave more like living corpses than anything else. However, he could be a serial killer with a supernatural ability that allows him to identify these people.
This is why once he kills them, he doesn’t feel like getting caught because the deed is already done, and he will get away with it no matter what. The existence of Jack also supports the idea that something else is happening outside of Elliot’s or Anna’s perspective. Nothing is definitive with these movies, as elements point to every solution. Which one do you think is the real answer?