A Banquet (2021) Movie Ending Explained & Themes Analyzed: The tagline for Ruth Paxton’s feature debut, ‘A Banquet’, is ‘Family or Famine’. This underlines the two axes, Paxton, with a story by Justin Bull, primarily tries to explore. On the surface, the options to choose between are restricted to these two options for the two main characters of the story. But the choice is also between love and faith, between reality and dream, between hanging on and letting go.
‘A Banquet’ has many implications with its layered story and its technical bravado. Ruth Paxton, with camerawork by David Liddell and with her excellent Sound team, cooks up a fascinatingly disturbing audio-visual experience. An experience that might not gratify the sensibilities of most horror fans, expecting chills and thrills. ‘A Banquet’ focuses on unsettling you, provoking you with its underlying implications, and keeping the feeling of constant uneasiness. In that regard, this film is a success.
However, what promises to be the film’s strength also runs the risk of being its pitfall. The existence of undercurrents of the film’s horror elevates the film, both technically and thematically. But, the sheer abundance of the same also muddles the story towards convolution. The risk of having multiple layers to be peeled away is that the procedure of peeling could beget disinterest at one point. But Paxton’s deft direction, and the performances of the cast, prevent the film from being entangled by its own complications.
A Banquet (2021) Movie Plot Summary and Synopsis:
‘A Banquet’ starts with the horrifying suicide of her terminally ill husband that leaves Holly (Sienna Guillory) to take care of her two daughters alone. Betsey (Jessica Alexander), the eldest, also witnesses her father’s death, however unbeknownst to her mother. This incident definitely acts as the trigger for various emotional scars for the entire family. Apart from Holly and Betsey, Isabelle (Ruby Stokes), the younger daughter, also copes with the tragedy in her own way.
Betsey, on verge of joining college, is yet to decide on what path she would want to take on. This seemingly innocent indecision is one of the key points of the story. At a party of one of her friends, while having a smoke in the backyard, Betsey witnesses a red full moon. The phenomenon has an impact on her as she trots toward the nearby woods after that. She comes out of the woods, dazed and in a trance. Her friends have to call her mother, Holly, to take her away.
The next day onward, Betsey manifests a determined reluctance toward eating food. This aversion towards food puzzles Holly and Isabelle at first, but gradually scares them as Betsey continues that stance. Coercion seems to result negatively. For her part Betsey tells her mother that she has seen it all, implying knowledge of the afterlife. And she is ready for the end of the world. Now, this is where Justin Bull’s screenplay plays with the narrative. It cleverly leaves the possibility of delusion without decreasing the gravity of the supernatural.
A Banquet (2021) Movie Themes Explained:
The futility of Life:
The pain of losing a close one, especially someone with plenty of influence on one’s life, is thoroughly explored in the film. Pain inspires fear. ‘A Banquet’ takes on grief like another horror film, ‘The Babadook’ did. However, there is plenty of difference. The first and foremost is ‘A Banquet’ tries to tackle other complexities as well. There is the entire take on anorexia and teenage angst. Then there are comparisons drawn between religion and messianic hubris. Betsey’s entire existence turns towards becoming something higher and bigger than any earthly mind could comprehend.
Betsey’s words reflect the nihilistic futility of life. The ‘What is it for’ question plagues both Holly and Betsey. Although Betsey is the one that gets ‘enlightened’ in the story, Holly is the one through whom we experience the emotions. If there is the futility of life to be experienced, it is to be experienced through the void felt of Holly after the death of her husband.
The Story of the Weight Scale:
As Holly suspects Betsey suffering from Anorexia, she fixes a scale to regularly measure Betsey’s weight. Betsey’s seemingly supernatural aversion towards food is justified by her to Holly, and later by Holly to her mother, June (Lindsay Duncan), by pointing towards the result of the scale. As Betsey’s weight does not seem to reduce significantly, even without having any food; it slowly changes Holly’s mind about Betsey’s condition. She starts to doubt the conventional scientific explanations behind it.
But, the twist involving the scale at the end significantly raises doubt about the entire ‘supernatural’ aspect of the story; as intended by Paxton. In the end, Holly finds that Betsey has manipulated the scale to show the number she wanted everyone to see. This goes in line with June’s retelling of one incident involving young Betsey. June chastises her granddaughter by reminding her of that story, a story that Betsey genuinely seems to have forgotten. The story involved young Betsey rehearsing and practicing fabrications and lies to tell to her grandma. So, the question would remain whether Betsey fabricated the entire thing and manipulated her mother.
A Banquet (2021) Movie Ending Explained: Did Holly die?
As if to immediately contradict the notion set by the manipulation of the weight scale, the ending veers towards the supernatural zone once again at the end. After not having food for more than six months, Betsey succumbs to death. Grief-stricken, Holly stumbles on the road outside and gets disintegrated into lights. Just as Betsey predicted about the end of the world and people becoming stars.
I believe Paxton wanted the audience to draw their own inferences. If we are to believe the non-supernatural theory, where Betsey did this to avoid committing to any path in life, to abstain from sustaining and continuing the life; then we would have to infer some metaphorical meaning behind Holly’s disintegration. Something akin to Holly slowly fully immersing herself in grief and pain. Otherwise, it could be taken as it is shown. Betsey indeed channeled all-knowing wisdom and knew about the judgment day. That would be a reassuring assumption as Betsey comforted her mother, and us, that everything would be fine even after death.
A Banquet (2021) Movie Links – IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
A Banquet (2021) Movie Cast – Sienna Guillory, Jessica Alexander, Ruby Stokes, Lindsay Duncan, Kaine Zajaz