Welcome to the Ending Explained for ‘The Best Offer’, a 2013 psychological thriller written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. Tornatore is one of the most estimated filmmakers in Italy, having directed some of the most successful films for that industry at the end of the last century, including the fantastic Cinema Paradiso. As of late, Tornatore’s output has slowed considerably, but audiences are still aware of him and are waiting for his next project. ‘The Best Offer’ is one of his latest offers, and while it doesn’t reach the highs of some of his best work, it is still one of the best thrillers of the 2010s.
The film stars Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Sylvia Hoeks, and Donald Sutherland. The film tells a story, framing it in one of those classic thriller molds. What begins as a sort of heist film then becomes something else entirely, and the final plot twist changes everything we have seen until that moment. The plot twist is expected, but it is the cruel nature of it that makes it more powerful than usual. The ending of the film really makes you think about what is right and wrong. Considering that none of these characters are good people, it also becomes quite an exercise in moral values just to not fall for them.
The following paragraphs contain spoilers for ‘The Best Offer’. Read at your own risk.
Who is Claire Ibbetson?
The film begins by setting up its main character, a man named Virgil Oldman. Virgil is what could be said to be a very particular kind of fellow. He is rich, smart, and has a prominent superiority complex. He also suffers from OCD, making it hard for him to relate to others. Virgil seems to have it all except company. He is a bachelor; he is very old now but still yearns for female companionship. To fill this hole, he collects portraits of beautiful girls. Virgil also has an even darker side.
While he is the managing director of a prominent auction house, he also takes part in scams. Thanks to his polished reputation in the auction scene, he has acquired masterworks by presenting them in the auctions as the work of lesser artists. He uses an artist friend of his, Billy, to make the purchases.
And so he acquired masterworks worth millions by just a fraction of their cost. Billy is an artist himself, but showing us just how little Virgil thinks of everyone else, he thinks very little of Billy as an artist. You could say Virgil sees Billy not as a friend but as a tool.
However, one day, Virgil receives a phone call that would change his life forever. Virgil is hired by a mysterious woman named Claire Ibbetson, who is in a bit of a pickle. Claire’s parents died recently, and she is now forced to sell the family assets.
She will sell the house, the land, and all the art and historical artifacts. This is when Virgil comes to the table. Virgil visits the house to evaluate the items and finds a strange mechanical device that catches his attention. He then takes this artifact to Robert, an engineer who recently became Virgil’s friend.
Robert and Virgil conclude that the mechanical device belongs to a bigger machine, a legendary automaton that could be priceless if they manage to get their hands on it.
It is here that Virgil decides to take on the job of auctioning Claire’s belongings. However, he never manages to see Claire in person, as she suffers from severe agoraphobia. Virgil falls in love with the girl he has never met. He feels they share things in common, including their loneliness. Virgil finally found his biggest treasure, for a man with everything but company and love.
What happens at the end of ‘The Best Offer’?
Virgil begins to collect more and more pieces of the automaton with each new visit to Claire’s house. He also begins to spy on her, following Robert’s advice. There, we see the girl behind the door for the first time, and she is surprisingly beautiful. Virgil falls even more in love with the girl, believing that not even the girls in his masterworks collection can measure up to her.
The pair begins a relationship when Claire finally sees that Virgil is not there to cause her harm. She accepts him, and they begin to meet face-to-face. Something that previously was considered impossible.
Meanwhile, Virgil begins to rethink his life. He believes he can retire and doesn’t need anything else but his collection and Claire, the woman of his life. On the way to Claire’s house, Virgil gets assaulted, and Claire, having watched everything from her window, goes out of the house for the first time, taking Virgil to the hospital and saving his life.
Claire has overcome her fears, and she can finally go outside. She moves with Virgil, who will retire after the latest auction is over. It is here when Claire tells Virgil that no matter what happens, he must remember that she loves him.
Something does happen. One day, after acquiring a new portrait, Virgil discovers that his secret room is empty. All his masterworks have been stolen. The only thing left in the room is the complete automaton with a message from Robert, who says that there is something real in every forgery.
Meaning that while he conned Virgil, he still liked him. It is revealed that we weren’t following the con man but the victim of the con. Claire, Robert, and Billy planned this for 18 months, and now, finally, they have taken Virgil’s treasures away from him.
Virgil collapses, and he gets interned in a mental facility. He has lost all of his paintings, valued in millions and millions. He can’t go to the police because he acquired the paintings illegally. However, it seems like in the end, Virgil accepts what happened to him and accepts that his painting was an exchange for his little romance with Claire. He goes to a restaurant Claire once suggested to him and sits down, waiting for her to appear someday.