‘Adagio’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Is Manuel Dead Or Alive?


Director Stefano Sollima introduces the audience to a burning Rome in his most recent film, Adagio. His experience of returning to Rome and encountering significant changes in his city inspired him to create the film. The word “adagio” means to perform in slow time, just like the gradual decline of the once-feared figures of the Roman underworld. In Netflix’s Adagio the three figures come together in an unexpected turn of events. The film primarily revolves around a sixteen-year-old boy, Manuel, and his journey to find a way out of the criminal mess he had gotten dragged into.

Spoiler Alert

Why did Cammello refuse to help Manuel?

Manuel was hunted by a corrupted carabiniere, Vasco, after he fled from an underground exclusive party. The sixteen-year-old was tasked with taking pictures inside the venue, where people indulged in alcohol and drugs. The goal was to gather evidence against a minister and take pictures and videos of him in a compromising position. When Manuel noticed a hidden camera at the venue, he freaked out. He had taken cocaine a few seconds ago, and he was afraid that the policemen would use it against him. The teenager abandoned the job he was assigned and ran for his life. Vasco was funded by influential people, and he was afraid that Manuel knew too much already to be allowed to get away.

Manuel sought help from his father’s old friend, Polniuman. Manuel’s father, Daytona, and Polniuman were former members of a criminal gang. Manuel did not wish to get his father involved because of his mental health and hoped that Polniuman would know how to escape from such a complex situation. The former gangster advised Manuel to visit Romeo, aka Cammello. After being apprehended during a heist, Cammello served ten years in prison and two years in criminal asylum before being released due to a terminal illness. Cammello’s wife was strict about him cutting all ties with the underworld. The couple intended on spending the last few days of Cammello’s life in peace, but soon trouble knocked at their door. Manuel begged Cammello to help him, but he could risk losing his peace over saving Daytona’s son. Cammello despised Daytona because he held him responsible for the death of his son. Lollo, his son, was shot during a heist. Daytona had told him it would be an easy crime to commit, but it ended up destroying his life. Facing rejection from Cammello, Manuel decided to stay on his terrace. Meanwhile, Vasco ended up at Polniuman’s place after following Manuel’s GPS by tracking his phone. Polniuman tried to come up with a deal that would benefit both parties, but Vasco was not interested in making any compromises, and he ended up killing Polniuman.

 Why did Cammello confront Daytona?

Daytona used to rule the Roman underworld in the past, but with the onset of dementia, he barely remembered his past glory. Some days he could remember every detail of his life, while on others he struggled to recall faces and names. He lived in a modest apartment and described his present condition as beggarly. Manuel tried to keep him out of the mess, but his father eventually found out the truth. Meanwhile, Vasco, Massimo, and Bruno were tense after they figured out Daytona’s influence during his days. Massimo and Bruno were afraid of continuing their operation, and they suggested that they end it. But the money meant a great deal to Vasco. His legal battle for the custody of his sons had started to drain him, and this was his only way to stay afloat. He believed that once they got the kid, everything would be fine. He also thought that the old gangsters were dead men walking, and they did not have the power to harm them.

Cammello figured out that Manuel did not leave his apartment, and he decided to discuss his situation with Daytona. He explained that Manuel was caught selling drugs, and the cops took advantage of it and offered him a job in exchange for his freedom, but he ended up fleeing from the scene. Daytona did not feel responsible for his son’s situation; Manuel was his adopted son, and he could never love him as his own. Cammello and Daytona had not been in contact since his arrest, and even after seeing Daytona’s helpless state, Cammello could not forgive the damage he had caused. Losing Lollo was devastating for Cammello, and he had always wanted to seek revenge. While he could not kill him, he threatened to destroy the father and son if the entire fiasco turned out to be a way to get him into trouble once again.

What resulted in Daytona’s death? 

The cops followed Daytona when he stepped out of the facility. Seeing his condition, they figured that he could never be a threat to their mission. But there were times when Daytona’s memory worked fine, and in that moment his past instincts kicked in, and out of nowhere he opened the door of Vasco’s car and held a knife to his neck. He threatened to destroy the lives of the cops if they continued to disturb his son. Vasco did not expect to witness the gangster side of Daytona. Even though Daytona did not think he had a deep connection with Manuel, he surely cared about him. Daytona later contacted Manuel and met him at a park to tell him to leave his house. By his age, Daytona had already started to build a life of his own, and he believed Manuel should do the same. The father knew that his son would be in trouble if he lived with him, and throwing him out of the house was the best way to keep the police guessing his location. When Manuel went to the apartment to get his things, he realized someone was waiting inside. He went back to Cammello’s place because he had nowhere else to go. The cops later got hold of Daytona, and Vasco tried to trigger him by showing photos of his son performing fellatio. Daytona either remained silent to protect Manuel or he truly had no recollection of what had happened before. Frustrated by the situation, Vasco ended up shooting Daytona.

Why did Cammello change his mind?

Cammello drove Manuel to the nearest train station. The teenager was helpless, and Cammello perhaps thought that the least he could do was safely drop him off at a train station. Manuel was not like his adoptive father, who, at his age, was already taking part in criminal activities. Cammello thought there was an innocence to Manuel, and he asked him again if he was really caught selling coke on the streets. Manuel confessed to him that he had engaged in sexual activity, and the cops had pictures of him in the act. He was afraid that the photographs would destroy his father’s reputation. Manuel did it for money, but he did not anticipate the repercussions he would have to deal with. The confession helped Cammello and Manuel bond; Manuel was as innocent as he looked. He could have followed in the footsteps of his father, but he was trying to be better, and Cammello could not blame him for the choices he made to financially support himself. The fire that had taken the city by storm impacted the traffic conditions, and Manuel had to walk the rest of the way to the train station.

When Cammello returned home, he discovered that the police had been to his place in search of Manuel. They had gone through Daytona’s rap sheet and found his name. Cammello assumed that the police had fixed a spying device to overhear their conversation and track Manuel, and after searching under the table, he discovered that his guess was right. He had already mentioned the train station to his wife, and the cops headed there. Cammello promised his wife that he had no intention of compromising their safety, and all he did was drop the kid off at the station. But he believed that the cops would chase them if they did not find the boy there, so the plan was to stay away for some days. While driving, Cammello stopped the car at his sister-in-law’s place and asked his wife to stay there. His wife was disappointed in him after she realized that he had no intention of staying with her. He was planning on saving the boy from the cops, and she knew it would only bring more trouble into their lives.

Did Manuel survive?

Cammello had lost his son, and as much as he hated Daytona, he felt a connection with Manuel. The first time he saw Manuel, he was reminded of his son, and perhaps that was all the more reason why he felt the need to protect him. Polniuman was already killed, and after seeing Daytona’s condition, he knew that the boss too had his days numbered. He was suffering from cancer, and his son was long gone. Manuel belonged to the next generation, and he felt the urgency to protect him. Cammello arrived at the station and injected himself with morphine to get the job done. When he walked into the station, he noticed Vasco and Bruno, but they did not seem to recognize him. They had already tracked down Manuel and were going after him. The train Manuel was supposed to board was canceled due to the fire, and by the time he could get on the next train, Vasco had already found him. Cammello observed the entire situation, and at the end of Adagio, he pulled out his gun and shot at Vasco and Bruno before they could shoot Manuel. Bruno did not survive, and Vasco was fatally wounded. Even though he was bleeding from his neck, Vasco continued to hunt for Manuel. Killing the teenager had almost become an obsession for him, and he continued to follow.

In Adagio‘s ending, Vasco was close to shooting Manuel, but the bleeding from the bullet wound resulted in his death. Vasco’s gun fell from his hands, and Manuel finally felt relieved. Manuel was brought to the police station after the incident. It was also revealed that the minister, who was caught in a compromising position and was possibly involved in child prostitution, had resigned. This suggests that he had already found out about the photos and videos, and as a result, he decided to step down. Massimo was the only one among the cops who survived. They were not working within their official capacity and were being controlled by an influential force. The imagery of Rome burning was somewhat biblical—it symbolized that the end of humanity was already here, with the earth turning into a fire pit. The blackouts and the chaos that ensued indicated that humanity was stepping into darkness caused by the injustice and corruption that existed far and wide. But even in the face of what seemed to be the end of the world, the younger generation brought hope. They were not as hateful as the grownups. Manuel handed his favorite headphones to Vasco’s elder son without even realizing how symbolic the act was. He showed kindness to the son of the man who tried to kill him until the very last minute. The three gangsters died protecting one of them; even though everyone assumed that their days were over, they honored themselves one last time. 

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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