Smile (2022) Ending, Explained: “Rose, it is Madeline” was the exact moment when Smile (2022) made it to cult classic territory. Not that the rest of the movie was not enough, but this moment was a huge revelation. Smile has all the makings of a sumptuous horror film. And the best part is that director Parker Finn wholly uses the resources at his disposal with aplomb. These elements have not come together quite like this creep-fest. It might just be the apotheosis of cinematic neurosis for the year 2022. The wild ending of Smile leaves many questions unanswered. In fact, one of the most compelling aspects of the storytelling is how well the core conceit is kept intact. Even when it is revealed, the very act of revelation is not narrated: it is showcased, step by step, without giving you any indications of what it might be.

The predictability part comes up due to its derivativeness. But that is not a deterrent because of the excellent execution overall. We have seen this story before but would gladly see it again. Smile (2022) gives you anxiety, dissociative tendencies, and a whole lot of genuinely scary scares. Sosie Bacon’s central performance beautifully anchors the story. She holds the movie together with her sublime performance that has every emotion possible. And it has already been said that horror film artists don’t get their due, but Sosie should ideally be in the running for multiple acting awards. The biggest surprise at the end of Smile was that it was not an A24 product. How did they miss this one? Everything about Smile screams of the A24 DNA. But regardless, they have “plenty” on their plate this year.

This article deep dives into Smile and discusses all the detailed plot points and the ending. Because of how ironclad the underlying cause for the “curse” was, reading this might give you a better sense of what you just saw. So, here is the ending explainer for Smile.

Smile (2022) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

What is the “smiling” curse?

The smiling curse is basically that when it is time, the person who carries the curse kills themself in front of another person. When they see the cursed person killing themselves – all while sporting a smile – that person has the curse. They kind of become the next victim. It works similarly to The Ring, and It Follows, where the curse is transmitted through something or the other. But what actually causes the curse? Trauma and grief give it power. They are the chief enablers for the “smile demon” to try and ripe up its victim. That is why all the killings that take place happen in such a visceral, violent manner.

The overwhelming fear of seeing someone do something horrible right in front of their eyes does the trick. And that person is not just anyone. It is someone you love or care deeply about (except the one person in the parking lot we see on the CCTV footage). Imagine how you would feel when you go through the same thing. However, it is not necessary that the victim must be someone who has gone through past trauma. It can differ in scale, of course. Indeed seeing your mother die in front of you when you were ten and getting bullied in primary school isn’t the same.

How did Robert Talley break the curse?

Rose asked the question to Joel when he dug further into seeing how long the chain of cases went. He reported 20 such cases but only 19 suicides. The one exception to the general rule here is Robert Talley; the man Rose meets when she gets desperate for answers. So how did he do it? Talley explained that he had heard of the curse originating in Brazil. While the movie does not shed any light on who committed the original sin, that can very well serve as a prequel idea. Given how Smile has done at the box office, you’d think that to be a pretty straightforward deal. Anyway, so once Talley heard about the Brazilian woman, he learned that she killed someone else to deflect the curse from her.

The demon feeds on trauma and fear, and grief. You not only have to kill a person but also have a witness see you kill them because that is the real thing the demon thirsts for. Talley killed his neighbor and made his wife watch it. He then confessed and offered himself up to the police to choose a life behind bars. When Rose learned this, she took a knife and thought of going to her psychiatric unit and murdering Ken. But her conscience stopped her from ever progressing.

Why did Rose not help her mother and let her die?

In the final showdown at Rose’s childhood house, we see her talking to a projection of her mother’s ghost. The woman we see in the opening scene is, in fact, Rose’s mother, and she is the little girl under the door frame. When Rose first enters the house in the climax scene, she has a flashback of what happened. She saw her mother get death throes after overdosing on drugs and asked for help. But Rose walked away and did not call anyone. She let the situation be, and in the climax, she reveals that she did not help her mother because she was cruel to her.

She saw her as a monster, and Rose, as a child, could not think about how she would see this decision several years later in adulthood. Her mother beat Rose and did not pay attention to her needs. Apart from this explanation, there is also a very interesting deja vu of how Rose got into this mess. When she was about to leave for the day, the phone rang in her office. Even though she had walked out, she came back in to attend to it. That is how she met Laura and how the ballyhoo all began.

In the climax sequence, she reveals that she had closed the door on her dead mother and only went in after she died. She feels guilt over that hence why she helps others to try and fill that void. But trying to repress that guilt rather than confronting it led to her being cursed, so that is quite ironic how all of that takes place.

How does the entity find its victims?

This particular segment is wholly based on observations in the narrative that are somewhat hidden and only link-worthy when you see all of them together. The movie does not clearly explain how it happens, but this might seem to be a good one. Firstly, the timeline of how the curse takes effect. Joel informs that all the victims who died by suicide had given testimony of the suicide they witnessed around four to seven days apart. Rose earlier thought that it might be something subjective and depends on the victim, but evidence suggests it is actually how long the entity takes to identify the next victim. It is not a coincidence that it preyed on random strangers.

This process of the victims seeing these smiling faces is the conveyer belt the victim goes through to reach the entity. The demon feeds on tortured souls. They are all mentally vulnerable and socially isolated. It is almost like a science experiment where the demon itself takes its time to asses which of the close ones to the victim should be the next one. And the cause-effect link here is quite strong. Trevor, who was Rose’s fiance, was the first probable target. But he chickened out – quite understandably – after Rose’s birthday incident, and she admitted to the symptoms in the car.

He did not fit the billing. Holly, who shared Rose’s same trauma in childhood seeing their mother die, was perhaps the next. But even she closed the door on Rose after the birthday incident and could not become the right one. It was Joel, the one who could have possibly stayed with Rose through thick and thin and suddenly became emotionally available. Although Joel showing up was a pure coincidence, once the entity saw them together, there was the possibility he could be it. It waited long enough for Joel to show up, and then, when Rose was entirely there for the taking, possessed her and passed on the curse.

Is Smile based on a true story?

Smile (2022) Movie Ending, Explained

Contrary to fan theories floating on the internet, Smile is not based on a true story. It would have been sensational and downright frightening if that were the case. It might be true in some corners of the world, but that would be purely accidental. Parker Finn, who also wrote the film, adapted his short story, “Laura Hasn’t Slept,” which refers to Laura Weaver, the Ph.D. student who was the first victim we saw. But the director had a unique take on his sensibilities and subconscious creative choices. He said to The Wrap in an interview:

“I want to take something deeply psychological and internal and ground it as a story with a character, and then introduce this extraordinary external, potentially supernatural threat that’s coming and braid those two things until they become indistinguishable from them one another. I think there’s something fun there, and I love the inherent contradiction between a smile and this sense of palpable evil. I wanted the movie to feel sort of gleefully evil, and I’m hoping that’s what people will get out of it.

Who is the demonic slender-man-like monster in Rose’s childhood house?

Unlike most horror movies, we do not have an explanation of what the demon is exactly. For now, we will have to be content with calling it “the thing,” like the John Carpenter creation. That was Finn’s inspiration while coming up with the demon’s appearance and how it could strike fear among us. The metaphorical element can always be open to interpretation. Still, in terms of defining the demon, we can only say that it is a demon exclusive to the Smile universe and, if all goes well, the Smile “franchise.” The origins of the monster are never explained but perhaps a prequel explaining that wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

What is Smile actually about?

If one looks at the core intent of the demon, it is to exploit human vulnerability. It attaches itself only to those – at least from what we saw in the film – who have some past trauma they have not been able to overcome. All these people, especially Rose, have had their anxiety and wounds of the past that have not fully healed resurface. That throws them once again into the bleak, oblivious arms of more suffering, something the demon takes advantage of. Smile is, of course, a horror film. But the depth of how people lose connection with each other and the exploitative nature of institutes is surprising. People turning their backs on one another and the trust deficit are definitely part of the thematic fabric as well.

One of the most exciting dynamics of the conversation Rose has with his sister first in the film is her intention to become a doctor. It is because, in hindsight, Rose has been unable to come to terms with not helping her mother; she compensates by assisting others. However, she can. She works weekends and extended hours to ensure she can do her best. The accommodative stance turns against her eventually, ironically, but the trauma of not doing enough – of having made a mistake – eats her up inside.

Smile (2022) Ending, Explained:

What is the mystery behind the “smiling” curse, and does Rose break it?

Sosia-Bacon in Smile (2022) - Ending, Explained

It all starts with an “I’m not crazy, you know.” At first, it is innocent, polite, and helpless. So much so that they will go down to any level to convince you. But gradually, it becomes more violent and vile, and forceful. The lack of acknowledgment consumes the person. The corporeal and unsettling tone of Smile was certainly consistent through the end. It constantly pushed you further into the dark clutches of the demon along with Rosie. The ending saw her return to the unconfronted past that traumatized her to this date. It is the source of all her grief and insipid suffering. She finally can talk with her mother’s apparition when it really was the demon posing as her. Everything that takes place in the ending, until the real Joel arrives after a while, is happening in Rose’s mind.

Bringing her to the old house was the last straw the demon needed to pull to make Rose ripe for the taking. From what we see, the demon cannot just take over people with an emotional balance state. It needs them to erode their peace of mind and ultimately become shattered. The sadistic undertones almost suggest that it takes pleasure in the pain of others and relishes the opportunity it gets to feed off them. Why did Rose go back? That is an interesting question.

The answer is that Rose felt she would do more damage to Joel because her timeline was coming up shortly. She wanted the curse to end with her; if you remember, she did not even call Joel. But, when the demon saw him come, or maybe he expected him to come, he crawled inside her and then self-immolated Rose to keep the curse alive. He came on his own and figured out that Rose was sacrificing herself.

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Smile (2022) Movie Official Trailer

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