‘Borderline’ (2023) Ending Explained & Film Summary: Is Charli Dead Or Alive?


There is a lot to understand about Borderline as a movie. When we saw it the first time, we didn’t quite catch the hidden meanings and ended up misunderstanding many things. But then we read up a little about “borderline personality disorder,” and so many things about the character’s journey made sense. Borderline is the tragedy of a young woman whose mind and heart did not allow her any options except the escapism of drugs. It would be unfair to judge her for what she was going through but let us make an attempt at being understanding and fair through the summary and ending of Borderline.

Spoiler Alert

What is Charli’s relationship with her mother like?

This is a story about Charli, who suffers from borderline personality disorder (BPD) and is no longer in control of her life. She is an addict, and that has taken over her. If you google BPD, the very first page lists emotional dysregulation as a symptom. Some of the others include terrible anger, a lack of a strong self-image, and a fear that they will be abandoned. These are also what we see prominently in the character of Charli. At first, we did not understand the relevance of so many scenes of her changing in front of a mirror, but after reading a little bit more about the mental illness, we understand that it has to do with the image Charli has of herself and how she needs to remind herself of it at a time when she is unable to differentiate between imagination and reality. The fact is that this is the only aspect that we feel comfortable analyzing this way because we are unable to differentiate whether the other factors, like her anger, her mood swings, or her paranoia, are the result of her BPD or her addiction. If only Charli had gotten the help she so desperately needed, she and the audience would have gotten these answers.

When Borderline starts playing, we see Charli not being allowed into her mother’s room. Presumably, Charli’s mother was expecting her, and she had locked her door on purpose. Charli has been an addict for a while, and she has definitely stolen from her mother before. She wants Charli to go to rehab, but Charli isn’t interested. She has a full-blown meltdown outside her mother’s door and begs her for some money, saying that she would get involved in the flesh trade if the money was not given to her. Charli’s mother starts to call the doctor but is unable to hold herself back from giving the money because of the things Charli says. Much later in the movie, Charli calls her mother once again. We are assuming that they had not been in contact after that meeting, and her mother says that this wasn’t a good time to call. It felt like Charli’s mother was done with her daughter because we did not hear her ask whether Charli was all right or if she was doing well. However, she tries to ask if Charli is ready for rehab, meaning that she is open to their relationship being repaired, but Charli is too far gone at that point. The abandonment here was conditional, but in Charli’s drug-addled state, she could not perceive that.

Is Charli in love with Zee?

The way we saw Charli and Zee’s relationship, they are both addicts, but Zee is dependent on the drugs to a far lesser degree. We are speaking from a place of non-expertise, but we have to consider that Zee did not seem to have a mental health issue like Charli did, meaning that her relationship with her addiction was different from that of Charli’s. At best, Zee forgot things she did under the influence, unlike Charli, who used to imagine entire alternative scenarios and not know whether they were true or not. Charli is certainly attracted to Zee, but it isn’t there the other way around. We doubt the feelings are ever clearly expressed because some of the confessions and advances are imagined by Charli, and the one that isn’t, Zee ends up forgetting them. But they are undeniably best friends. However, Charli’s fear of abandonment occasionally drives a wedge between them. She imagines that there is something between Zee and Kyle, the guy that Charli has been seeing for a few months. Additionally, Charli is also jealous of Zee’s other friends. When she meets a girl named Heather, whom Zee brings home, Charli visibly doesn’t like her because she sees the girl as a threat to her friendship with Zee. That is why she sends such angry messages and voice notes to Zee later, because she is insecure about Heather.

Is Charli Dead Or Alive?

The thing to understand is that, as much as Charli is troubled by her life, she doesn’t seem to care about getting better. She does not see drugs as the enemy but instead, as the things that protect her from the uncertainty of life brought on by mental illness. Charli has, in many ways, isolated herself from any and all help. She works in a hospital, and ideally, that should have gained her some help, but it turns out to be the opposite. The doctor uses Charli as a means to satisfy his foot fetish and, in return, provides her with the pills she needs. At one point, they end up spending the night together, but Charli remembers none of it. She doesn’t even remember agreeing to do so, and that sends her down a completely different spiral, which makes her completely dependent on the numbness of drugs.

As for Kyle, he seems like a good guy who wants to do right by Charli, but she doesn’t like him as much. Mostly, she treats him as someone she can go to when her feelings for Zee get too intense. This was one of the reasons she did not like Kyle’s camaraderie with Zee. Also, when Heather came into the picture, Charli started feeling even more neglected, which made her seek out the drugs even more. To top it all off, Charli ruins her friendship with Heather when they break into Trevor’s house for the drugs, and after that ordeal, they leave it all behind by accident. Charli says the worst things to Zee and bullies her into giving her some drugs and money, causing her best friend to be done with her and asking her to leave. Even Charli’s mother seems disinterested at this point.

When Charli asks Kyle to get some drugs with her, he doesn’t agree, as he wants to break up with Charli because of the way she has been treating him. Therefore, she decides to go to the dealer herself, even though Kyle warns her that the woman is a predator. That turns out to be true, and Susan takes an unclothed Charli’s photo as insurance in return for the business they are doing. Some days later, when Charli returns for more drugs, Susan takes advantage of her and Charli and records their video. Later, she tries to extort some more money from her, but Charli manages to escape from there. When she gets home, she overdoses on the drugs and passes out.

During Borderline‘s ending, we see Zee desperately trying to wake up her friend, and it looks like Charli is still alive. However, we don’t believe it is for long because Charli has a dream of Zee finally agreeing to run away with her, which is what she had wanted all along. This was Charli’s version of peace, and the fact that she had gotten it could mean that she was living it out in her head as a final wish. But if we had to see it positively, we could also assume that this was what was keeping her alive for those few precious moments it would take for Zee to get her to the hospital. Once Charli is in the hospital, maybe Zee will have to contact her mother, and Charli can finally get checked into rehab and start a better life. But we believe that the first scenario is more likely.

Final Thoughts

We don’t have many words to describe this movie or what we wanted from it. There is absolutely no way of saying that this should have been different or shorter because it was a story of addiction. It shouldn’t be simplified because then it would be a different movie, and that has already been made. The only way there is any meaning or justice to Borderline is if the audience takes the time to read up on mental health and mental illness so that we are better able to help the people in our society who need it.

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Divya Malladi
Divya Malladi
Divya spends way more time on Netflix and regrets most of what she watches. Hence she has too many opinions that she tries to put to productive spin through her writings. Her New Year resolution is to know that her opinions are validated.

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