In “Martyrs Lane,” currently streaming on Amazon Prime, Writer-Director Ruth Platt douses a simplistic ghost story with a steady flow of dread. At first, the dread was of the supernatural. However, the story gradually transforms the dread into a poignant tale of sadness. The ghost here is not from the land that is beyond death. It originates after death. Built upon the supernatural premise, it is the natural phenomenon called grief, something painfully natural, that drives “Martyrs Lane.”
Martyrs Lane (2021) Plot Summary and Movie Synopsis:
Leah (Kiera Thompson) lives with her family in the countryside vicarage. The family includes dad Thomas (Steven Cree), who is the presiding priest of the church. It includes older sister Bex (Hannah Rae), occasionally bullying her ten years old sister, Leah. And, of course, Mom Sarah (Denise Gough). Sarah is noticeably constantly preoccupied. She is a little distant, even when she seems to be sternly caring. Of course, father Thomas dotes on the youngest daughter. But the coldness from her mother keeps little Leah awake at night.
She is often drawn towards the locket her mother wears all the time. One day, when the chance presents itself, Leah takes the locket and finds a little coil of golden hair inside. She keeps the hair. From that moment onwards, she starts to encounter someone else. Another little girl (Sienna Sayer), wearing makeshift angel wings, start to follow her. Leah asks her to come to her house, as helpful and welcoming as she is, brought up on the ideals of ‘giving’ from her church. The winged girl visits Leah in the dead of night.
The girls bond quite well at first. Through the game of “Two Truths, One Lie,” the ghostly girl shares some hitherto unknown information about Leah’s family. Especially her mom, Sarah. She also leaves Leah with instructions to find what she has lost. Leah, who has lost the hair from her mother’s locket, presumes these instructions to be about that on the first night. But she finds other things. She finds small alphabet blocks, like something out of a bracelet. With each night’s encounter, She finds the letters “L,” “E,” “H,” and “A.”
She figures that it might spell her name “Leah” at first. But she still continues to get more letters. She finds a “C” later. Meanwhile, Leah also starts to suspect the intentions of the ghostly little girls as she starts to scare her. With her words and her wounds. Older sister Bex, perhaps suspecting this, offers to sleep with Leah one night. The little girl does not visit that day.
But, Bex and Thomas leave the next day to set Bex up for her new college. That night, the girl visits. The last instruction has Leah find another letter. “R.” Leah figures out the name. Rachel.
Martyrs Lane (2021) Movie Ending Explained:
The Childhood Quest for Parental Love: Who is Rachel? How Did She Die?
In the climax, Sarah finds Leah with all those letter beads. Leah asks her mother about those. And finally, Sarah gets broken. She tells the story of Rachel, her now-deceased daughter. She was younger than Bex. She was killed in a road accident when a speeding joyrider hit her while she was riding a bike with makeshift wings on her back. The accident happened on Martyrs Lane, where Leah was sent to fetch one of the letter beads by the little girl whom now I know as Rachel.
This Joyrider was, and still is, from their community only. Son of one of the influential townspersons. Lilian. That is why when Lilian gifts a cake to Leah, Sarah throws it away. Sarah was devastated when Rachel died, and she could not get the time to process the grief either, as she was pregnant with Leah at that time. Leah’s birth happened when her mother was drowning in sorrow. That is the most horrifying truth for little Leah. Bex and Thomas never said anything about Rachel so as not to upset Sarah further.
What Happens to Sarah and Rachel?
The next time Rachel’s ghost visits, both Leah and Sarah are there. A devastated Sarah gets overjoyed with sadness and relief. The possessive spirit of Rachel tries to take Sarah away. Leah also pleads with her mother not to leave her. It is the eternal sibling rivalry for the affection of their parent. But Sarah could not say no to Rachel. After all, she had already chosen Rachel. Rachel represented the grief, and Leah the hope.
Like any victim of depression, Sarah could not move past her sorrow. In that way, she has always chosen Rachel over Leah. Rachel told Leah that she was going to get real angel wings. Rachel becoming an angel could be a metaphor for her passing the barrier and finding peace in the beyond. Perhaps with Sarah by her side, both of them could move on from the limbo they were stuck in.
What Happens to Leah?
The loss of her mother is visible on Leah’s young face. When she sees the ghostly outline of her mother playing the piano, she sees the outline of Rachel beside her. But there is good news for Leah too. As we can see in the piece, her mother wrote only for Leah.
It is evident that the family is moving, having suffered a double tragedy in the same place. Perhaps the family of Thomas, Bex, and Leah would find some closure in a different place.
How Did the Guest’s Infant Son Choke on the Button?
Perhaps this is unrelated, but there is a scene that might confuse some. A young girl with her infant son started to live in the vicarage, perhaps as a paying guest. Leah bonded with them quite well. The infant son one day choked on a button, and he was saved just in time. The button was the one Leah sewed on Sarah’s cardigan. This had been the button that little Rachel also used to play with.
Although there is a perfectly logical answer to it, as the little boy was shown to be teething and Leah’s novice sewing technique might not have tightened the button properly. However, the jealous spectre of Rachel and her possessiveness for Sarah (and maybe for her newfound friend Leah) could also be in play.