‘Every Breath You Take’ Summary & Ending, Explained – Engaging But Ineffective


They say, make things harder for your protagonist. The audience wants to see them suffer or in pain. It is the ultimate trick to create empathy for them. In a way, through the medium of storytelling, you are generating emotions in a reader or viewer, and if you have done your job with sincerity those emotions will stay with our audience forever. Every Breath You Take might not be the greatest film you will come across but it does leave you thinking about an emotion that is hard to explain in words.

Every Breath You Take (originally titled You Belong to Me) stars incredibly talented Casey Affleck. A man capable of emitting a volcano of emotions with just his silence. Though the narrative fails to fully exploit this powerhouse of talent, yet Casey leaves no stone unturned. Let’s find out his journey in the film, Every Breath You Take.

‘Every Breath You Take’ Summary

The film begins with a threatening road accident resulting in the death of Grace’s kid seated in the backseat of the car. Grace (Michelle Monaghan) is the second wife of a well-known psychiatrist, Philip Clark (Casey Affleck).

Philip is a successful professional but due to the accidental death of his second child, his personal life is broken into fragments. Grace isn’t talking to Philip since the accident and his teenage daughter, Lucy from Philip’s first marriage, is suffering from an existential crisis and drug dependency. A man helping out others remains helpless with his own family.

A conflict is created when Philip’s patient, Mary kills herself. Mary had a history of an abusive father and abusive boyfriend. Her mother killed herself when she was 11 years old and since then she had been extremely suicidal. Although with her Philip tried to change the methodology of his treatment and she was also recovering too. But with the death of her best friend Joan, her trauma is triggered again. On the same night, Mary jumps off from her flat and kills herself. Her brother, James Flagg (Sam Claflin) arrives at Philip’s doorstep to hand him a book that Mary was writing. But his intentions are not friendly, he seeks revenge from Philip for reasons that remain mysterious.

James Flagg is a charmer and quite an observer. He infiltrates Philip’s personal life and seduces his wife and daughter while initiating a sexual relationship with both of them. James destroys both the personal and professional life of Philip while Philips struggles to find out the reason, “Why.”

Major Spoilers Ahead

‘Every Breath You Take’ Ending Explained

James Flagg’s original name is Eric. He was Mary’s abusive and possessive boyfriend and not her brother. Eric tries to kill Philip’s wife Grace but she manages to escape. Later Eric surrenders himself and gets admitted into a mental institution. When Philip meets him there, he hints “Portland.”

Initially, Philip fails to understand its significance but later realizes that Mary’s best friend Joan died on the road when a car rammed her in the park. The incident took place in Portland. Eric killed Joan to make Mary distraught so that she would take him in again. But she didn’t and thus, Eric killed Mary. It wasn’t a suicide, it was a murder. Eric is the murderer on the run.

Eric runs away from the mental institution and comes after Philip’s daughter Lucy. But Philip and Grace save Lucy. Eric dies in the end.

A metaphorical element is explored in the end. Grace stabs Eric with her kid’s hockey ice-skates. The game they were driving to before the accident happened and took away her son. Grace cherishes those skates but in the end, she uses the memories of her old child to protect the living, her husband, and her step-daughter. Thus, she decides to live for those who are living rather than mourning for the ones who are gone. She decides to start again. It becomes a gateway to end her trauma.

Every Breath You Take is not a great film but it is engaging throughout. The most peculiar layer explored in Philip’s character is a journey towards, “practice what you preach.” A renowned psychiatrist who isn’t able to mend his own family might be at fault somewhere. Philip recognizes his flaw and corrects it. He learns it through a hard way, through jealousy, his wife’s adultery, and her daughter’s drug abusiveness. But after all the storm, the hero comes out clean and humble. That’s what matters in the end, a transformed hero.

The film has strong characters and even stronger performances but it fails narratively. The set-up, writing, and direction are not above par. It’s shortcoming is a weak script, and a weaker direction. Though the film delivers a great message and strong emotions, the story makes little impact. If you are looking for an engaging drama, Every Breath You Take could be an option. However, it is nothing exceptional.

Every Breath You Take (also titled You Belong to Me) is a 2021 mystery thriller film directed by Vaughn Stein. The film is available for Video on demand.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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