Yoko Okumura’s directorial debut, Unseen (2023), is a thoroughly entertaining and riveting effort. Fashioned as a two-person show, the film takes place in a unique setup where two strangers, Sam (Jolene Purdy) and Emily (Midori Francis), come together via a video call to save each other’s life. Unseen is only 75 minutes long but packs many surprises and twists for the viewers. Okumura is adept at creating a narrative that constantly unfolds and integrating significant themes about personal struggle and identity into it.
How we become heroes in our stories to find comfort is a universal emotion. Trying to run away from things and then hide the messed up parts from other people is a mutually accessible building block that glues Sam and Emily together. Both the protagonists suffer from parental and abandonment issues. But despite packing these valuable notions about the characters, Unseen remains wildly quirky and charming. In this piece, we present our readers with Unseen’s Plot Summary and Analysis while also explaining Unseen’s ending, which was a pleasant surprise for all of us.
Unseen (2023) Plot Summary and Movie Synopsis:
Unseen is the story of Emily and Sam and their unique friendship. When the former finds herself in dire straits after being kidnapped by her psychotic ex-boyfriend Charlie, the latter comes to her rescue. But the manner in which that happens is unimaginably coincidental and fateful. Sam is a cashier at a gator-themed gas station in Florida and hates her job. Given how she is treated by her boss Isaac and the deadbeat vibes, anyone would find it difficult to continue. Emily is an ER doctor and finds herself stranded in a cabin in the woods somewhere in Michigan.
Emily broke off her relationship with Charlie after they became distant. She thought he had grown toxic, jealous, and clingy over time, while Charlie thought the move was inspired by his removal from the Board of Directors of the company his father owns. Emily is nearly blind without her glasses and realizes that Charlie intends to kill her. Somehow, she manages to escape from the cabin by severely beating Charlie with a flower vase. But in the process, she breaks her glasses. So essentially, Emily is blind.
How does Sam end up contacting Emily, a complete stranger?
At the film’s beginning, Sam tries to dial a number but cuts the call midway after it isn’t picked up. She didn’t know it belonged to Emily. The number was indeed Emily’s, and she called the first number in the log; Sam’s number. This is after Emily tried calling 911, who did not have “video calling capabilities,” and hence, couldn’t help Emily. But the authorities have noted her situation and will be able to learn Emily’s location as well. Somehow, the ER doctor manages to explain to Sam her situation and asks for help.
Sam is unwilling as she has the store to look after. But eventually, she gives in and agrees to help. The two organically converse about other things on the video chat. Emily repeatedly holds up the phone to show Sam the surroundings and follows her directions. Her hands are still tied, and Sam watches a Russian guy explain on the internet her how to break out of zip ties. Emily follows the instructions, but one of her hands is injured in the process. She misses any major arteries and is fine to continue.
What is Emily’s “best chance” to escape?
After another surfing visit, Sam recognizes that Emily’s best escape chance is finding a stream. She also thinks “following the birds” is a general tactic used by lost hunters to find the stream. As Emily does so, we see Charlie has already found her at this point. The two girls get to talk about their lives, especially their mothers. Emily’s mother is an ER nurse, and she worked crazy hours all her life. She wanted to spend more time with her mother and thus decided to take the same profession as her. Now, Emily just works hard to give her mother a good life. Her mother, Yuko, wishes to see Emily’s grandmother in Japan.
Sam explains that she moved back to Florida to help her sick mother, who passed away. Right on cue, they find the river. Sam is navigating Emily’s rescue mission while also catering to the store. She already had a difficult, entitled customer, Carol, give her a hard time. But the fritzing slurpy machine is creating a bigger menace. While repairing it, the machine explodes. She pulls her phone (that is on chagrin) too quickly, and it snaps inside her phone. Sam has a low battery and can no longer charge her phone. At the same time, Emily falls down, and Sam cuts her hand with a knife trying to take out the rest of the charger from her port.
Charlie stands right on top of her but cannot quite catch her. Emily finds her phone, and Sam continues directing her. That’s when Emily decides to go back up and confront him. She wants to get Charlie’s car. As she gets in and places the phone on the dashboard, Sam sees Charlie emerge up ahead. Emily tries to run him over – and she does – but crashes straight forward into a tree. She picks up a shard of broken glass and wants to finish Charlie off for good. But Sam dissuades her from doing so, and Emily is on the run again.
Sam cannot get her phone to charge. The crazy blonde lady, Carol, walks in again as she has forgotten her credit card at the store. After Emily leaves, Charlie gets up and picks up his hunter’s rifle to track her down. Carol doesn’t want to give her phone. So, Sam steals it and locks herself in. Charlie stands right before Emily, and she starts shouting at him. She stands right at the edge of a cliff as Charlie points the rifle at her. They had a terrible relationship. Both of them accuse each other of things. Charlie accuses Emily spent too much time at work and claims to be doing it for her mother.
Unseen (2023) Movie Ending, Explained:
But Charlie says he saw Emily countless times ignoring her mother’s calls. She falls down into the stream as he grabs her neck. Carol has a gun and brings it to kill Sam. She plays a trick and hands over her broken phone in Carol’s case to her. This gives Sam enough time to get inside the booth again.
Emily washes up ashore and is able to get on dry land. But she is badly wounded in one of her knees. One of the digits of Emily’s number is missing from the paper strip that Sam wrote it on. By the time Sam calls the right number, it is already nighttime. Sam asks Emily to turn on the flashlight. But Emily has given up hope. Emily asks Sam to call her mother and put the phone on speaker. She apologizes to her mother. Emily cites her neglect of her all these years under the garb of her work. There is guilt and regret in her voice. Right then, Sam spots a light in Emily’s background.
Sam tells her that she wasn’t there when her mother died. Sam just couldn’t take it anymore and needed a break. She got drunk and left the house. As a result, Sam’s mother died. Using this, Sam pushes Emily to get up and fight for her life. Sam will be by her side and not abandon her. It is a barn, and Emily gets in, but Charlie is right behind her. Carol fetches her husband to the station. He has brought an assault rifle with him. Sam is distracted and can’t direct Emily. They break into the store. Isaac comes to the store as well.
They have a plan in place, but Emily asks Sam to stop the background noise of them constantly shouting and banging on the window. Sam mutes herself and says she will send her a text instead. Charlie breaks into the barn. Isaac tries to break into the front of the store. Charlie walks towards what looks like Emily but finds that it is a decoy. The text is sent, and Emily sprays chemicals on Charlie’s face. The police arrive at the gas station screaming at Sam to get out. Charlie chokes Emily, who seems to be losing the duel. Sam keeps shouting, “Use the mirror in your pocket!” She eventually does and kills Charlie.
How do Sam and Emily “save each other” in the end?
The call disconnects, and Sam finally comes out. The police arrest her, and she walks out with a smile on her face. She also taunts Carol on her way into the car. Simultaneously, the police also arrive at the barn to save Emily. Several months later, we discover that the two girls are sharing another video charm, only this time, everything is fine. Emily is recovering from her wounds, and Sam has apparently moved closer to the beach for a change. Sam shares that she is going back to school. She asks Emily for help with her essay, and Emily is more than happy to do so.
As we head closer to the end credit, we see Sam throwing away the strip of paper with the original number she was trying to call that fateful day. In reality, Sam was trying to call Suicide Prevention Centre. And that is how Sam and Emily saved each other. If Sam hadn’t called Emily, she wouldn’t have found purpose again in her life. Sam could never have redeemed herself for abandoning her mother. She would have spiraled further down in her misery to do the unspeakable thing. And if she wouldn’t have called Emily, the latter had no way to survive the wilderness and her raging psychopath ex.