Sanctuary Ending Explained: ‘Sanctuary’ is only Zachary Wigon’s second feature film but the film critic turned filmmaker will certainly be a closely watched name going forward. Wigon shows immense maturity, conviction, and creative inspiration in his new film to carry through a rather innocuous premise. With only two actors in the entire film, Margaret Qualley, and Christopher Abbott, Wigon scripts a truly historic feat. Sanctuary has undertones of the “Eat the Rich” movement that is taking over Hollywood. The observant dialogue often inculcates the large divide in class and social stature between the two protagonists.

Sanctuary benefits greatly from the fluidity of storytelling. The single-setting narrative is made exciting with constantly unfolding surprises for the viewers. Sanctuary pushes boundaries of expectation to the extent that one doesn’t know what’s coming next. Cinematographer Ludovica Isidori’s zany camerawork keeps things interesting visually, whilst the explosive performances never let you focus elsewhere. Sanctuary’s” fraught night of emaciation” is a truly riveting experience. In this piece, we break down Sanctuary’s plot summary and Sanctuary’s ending, which is crazy, wild, and cathartic to all extents.

‘Sanctuary’ Plot Summary

Sanctuary begins innocuously with Hal Porterfield, our first protagonist, ordering room service in his room. Hal is the son of a business mogul who owns a chain of 112 hotels and recently passed away. In the wake of his passing, Hal is supposed to take over as CEO. Enter protagonist number two, Rebecca, who apparently represents a law firm until she doesn’t. Rebecca claims to be from the due diligence department and wants to vet Hal’s background. Her line of questioning gradually takes a devious turn to reveal that she is actually a dominatrix hired by Hal to “subvert him to her whim.”

The high-stakes scene sees Rebcca instructing Hal to clean the toilet in his underwear, pleasuring himself, and climaxing on her fingertips. We return to a semblance of normalcy as Rebecca takes off her blonde wig and has a nice, sane dinner with Hal. The two share a cordial relationship with each other with undertones of admiration. Hal had, in fact, given Rebecca a script with indentations about how to proceed. He had managed every aspect of their exchanges that night. But then, during the dinner, Hal does something unexpected that completely changes the complexion of the night.

Why does Hal want to stop his dealings with Rebecca?

Margaret Qualley and Christopher Abbott in Sanctuary (2023)
Margaret Qualley and Christopher Abbott in Sanctuary (2023)

Hall announces his intention to stop the meetings with Rebecca. She is shocked to hear this, as their sordid affair has been happening for a while. Hal feels that the time has come for him to “mature and match his inside with his outside” and take on the mantle of CEO “like a winner.” The lifestyle that would be expected of someone in his position does not concur with what goes on between the two. Rebecca seems understanding at first, but then her attitude completely changes, and she rudely takes his leave. As she is about to take the elevator, Rebecca spots a family portrait of Hal with his parents. It was taken when he was quite young, but a light bulb goes off in her head.

What prompts Rebecca to return to the hotel room?

She turns around and immediately storms back in. Rebecca picks up Hal’s father’s book and reads verbatim from a chapter. Hal had taken his father’s words to dismiss Rebecca as he himself did not have the will or courage to do so. She takes advantage of his inherent adequacy and beseeches Hal to see why Rebecca is fundamental in him becoming the CEO. Hal was even more introverted and clueless about the real world when she met him a few months back. He had no sense of authority, personality, or charm. Rebecca made him so capable that he could write an entire script dictating their night.

How does Rebecca intend to blackmail Hal?

Rebecca demands that Hal give her half of his first-year CEO salary, roughly $4 million. Rebecca claims that she has a video of their “foreplay” when Hal casually mentions that she doesn’t have anything to hold him accountable. She feels she has the upper hand in the situation as the company is transitioning, and a scandal could affect Hal badly. Rebecca cites their email exchanges where Hal verified beforehand that Rebecca was of “pure Ashkenazi Jew descent.” Hal is clearly overwhelmed and, in his state of mind, concedes that the Board of Directors would not pay heed to such rumors.

This goes against what he said before about not having a Board. Rebecca is smart enough to know that Hal has not been appointed CEO yet and has only been anointed. The Board would have to confirm it, and they can very well choose not to if a scandal breaks out between now and then. Rebecca mentions the hidden camera to Hal, puts on music, and dances while watching Hal turn the place upside down to find it. The scene is reminiscent of the way Gene Hackman upended his apartment in The Conversation. “You want to be reprimanded for what you fear are inherent flaws and then rewarded for coming into compliance,” is what Rebecca says to him as Hal stands there fuming.

In a moment of madness, Hal tries to turn the tables on her by claiming that he is actually in control of their relationship and that it is purely transactional: he has no emotional attachment to her, and if he wanted, he could have her killed.

The craziness is taken up a notch when Rebecca seems possessed and takes Hal at knifepoint. She forces herself onto him and has intercourse. It seems like Hal is enjoying it as well, which is confirmed when she drops the knife, and they get passionately intimate. She demands that he finish inside her as she is ovulating at that time of the month. He has no other option than to agree, and they climax together.

Sanctuary Ending Explained:

Why does Hal suddenly change his mind about Rebecca? 

Hal sends the email to Gary, his lawyer, conceding to Rebecca’s demands. She leaves the room and gets in the elevator when Hal rushes out and stops her. He posits his logic that Rebecca does not have anything to lose and that she could repeat this blackmail for Hal’s entire life. He demands that she give him collateral in exchange for the assurances of money. Rebecca turns the tables on him and refuses to back down. She then bizarrely demands that he give her a permanent position at the company in perpetuity.

She mentions the words co-CEOs, which briefly takes us back to the Roy brothers from ‘Succession.’ Hal turns animated and even violent when he hears this. Rebecca shows him that she does indeed have footage of him indulging in subversion to her command. She had earlier claimed that it wasn’t true. Hal turns her upside down and ties Rebecca to the bed. He beseeches her to reconsider her position. Rebecca tearfully claims that she lost all her dominatrix jobs a year ago and is nearly broke.

Hal is her only client; she took the video because she loves “the game.” Those videos are for her personal viewing because she enjoys them so much. “I hate myself when I am out there,” exclaims Rebecca, asking Hal to let her continue this charade. Hal repeats the safe word “Sanctuary” multiple times, which means that she had to stop then. But Rebecca wants to play “one final game.”

What did the scene with Rebecca playing Hal’s father mean?

She says that she wants to play Hal’s father and enact a scene. Hal vociferously denies her requests. She repeatedly asks, as Hal’s father, to “untie Rebecca.” But Hal does not listen. In a showcase of brute strength, she upends the bed pillar and unties herself. Hal lays his back flat on the floor. Rebecca has completely lost herself as Hal’s father. She calls out Hal’s inadequacy as a man and a businessman, questioning his integrity and capability to do anything positive in life.

Those were the insecurities Hal had been dealing with his entire life. He always looked up to his father but knew he would never become him. Nothing like him at all. He would always remain in his father’s shadow and at the cusp of other people’s mockery. Rebecca fully understood that and channeled his fears with that play to give Hal peace. She comforts him in her arms and lifts a burden from his shoulders when she says, “Be your own man. That is just fine by me.”

Breaking down the “Final Compromise” in the Elevator

In the morning, Rebecca gets up and prepares to leave. Hal rides down the elevator with her. He talks about the “initiation dinner” and how he would have to cope with the Board and other people he does not like. Rebecca suggests a “management buyout” by virtue of which he will no longer have to bear anyone he doesn’t want to.  Hal can simply use all his inheritance money to buy out the company by paying its prevailing market cap of $185 million. And then, he can bring in new people according to his comfort.

Hal gets an idea. He proposes that Rebecca take over as the CEO after the buyout, and he becomes her “slave.” He thinks that Rebecaa is perfect for that job, and with no other gigs in sight, “Acting like a CEO” would be quite like a dominatrix. She is perplexed by what he says. But gradually, Hal’s logic starts making sense to her. When she asks what he would say to his family, Hal says, “We’re in love. She is in charge now.” They kiss as the elevator opens up and the movie ends. Rebecca’s final act shook Hal. The epiphany that he was not fit for the CEO role dawned upon him, and he thought of Rebecca as the perfect person to “lead him.”

In the absence of his father, Hal needed someone authoritative and fearless. Rebecca had proven herself to be both of those things and even showed great knowledge of corporate tactics and the landscape. It is a bizarre ending that sarcastically takes potshots on the position of women in the corporate landscape, how their masculinity for C-suite jobs is under scrutiny today, and marks the end of the mazy character arcs that make Sanctuary such a compelling watch.

Read More: How to watch the latest Margaret Qualley – Christopher Abbott starrer dark-comedy movie ‘Sanctuary’?

Rating: R (Sexual Content and Language)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery & thriller
Original Language: English
Director: Zachary Wigon
Producer: Pavel Burian, David Lancaster, Ilya Stewart, Stephanie Wilcox
Writer: Micah Bloomberg
Release Date (Theaters): , Limited
Box Office (Gross USA): $530.8K
Runtime: Distributor: NEON
External Link to Sanctuary: Rotten Tomatoes

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