‘Strange Way Of Life’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Will Jake And Silva Get Back Together?


Could it be a customary feature of a genius to be hopelessly aware of their vision and the restraints on it? If so, this is another reason Spanish director Pedro Almodovar is called a genius. When he refused to helm Brokeback Mountain, he could foresee the priggishness the film would be expected to fit into. It’s Hollywood, after all. The place crinkles its nose at boldness and puts limits on the taboos it reluctantly views from a liberal perspective. The half-hour short teeming with the muffled desire Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke exude is hopefully what’s come out of Almodovar having all the creative freedom he could ask for. But even if it isn’t, Strange Way of Life is daring in its own way. It’s loyal to its Western identity while easing the dreary desert landscape, something readily associated with heterosexual masculinity, with the dew of queer love.

Spoiler Alert

What happens in the film?

There’s been a murder in a Southwest American town that is aptly named Bitter Creek. If not to prove himself out of the pressure of a self-imposed challenge, Sheriff Jake needs to apprehend the killer because the victim is someone close to him. The investigation was already heading down a rocky road. It gets all the more overwhelming with Jake’s old flame, Silva, crossing the desert and arriving in town after 25 years of distant longing. 

Why did Silva come back?

The train of thought that occupies your mind when you see Silva and Jake is the difference in nature between the two men. It’s evident they mean a lot to each other, considering there’s an ecstatic smile on Jake’s face when he sees his old love. It’s also rather obvious that time’s had different effects on the two. Silva’s somehow managed to preserve some of his softness, with which he so very lovingly pets his horse. Time hasn’t been as lenient with Jake, the man who wears the steely facade his world expects from him so anxiously that he’s almost become what he dreads. Around Silva, though, the man who was the sole witness to his more dynamic side decades ago, Jake lets his guard down. It’s been a while since the sheriff’s touched alcohol, until now. It’s likely been even longer since he’s gotten intimate with someone who really brings out that vivacious side he’s buried under layers of pragmatic self-sacrifice, until now. Jake knows when to pull back. Even though it is partly due to a personal agenda that Silva’s made this rough journey, he’s unable to convince Jake of his longing, which is the very real reason he’s here. He misses the man with whom he’d dreamed of having a happy life. The woman who was murdered was Jake’s sister-in-law. And even though his affair with her has long betrayed the promises he’d made to his brother and his father, both of whom are long gone, finding her killer is his last shot at redemption. It doesn’t make it any easier that the prime suspect is Silva’s son, Joe. Maybe it’s the cynicism and bitterness inevitable after such a long period of being deprived of love. Or maybe it’s the side effects of being a sheriff. Jake’s made up his mind that Silva has only shown up after all this time to defend his son. 

What was Jake and Silva’s relationship like in Mexico?

They were young gunslingers in arms. The two months they’d spent together, losing themselves in the unlikeliest love they found in each other, went by in a flash. From bittersweet dinner table anecdotes, we know Silva doesn’t look back in regret. We also know that Jake’s spent so much time making do with the unfulfilling life he chose that the only comfort now is to deny how real it was between them. As their horses make their way through the parched terrains of Bitter Creek—one following the other–both headed to Joe’s abode, with amusingly conflicting purposes—Jake and Silva fall back into the memories of those 60 days in Mexico. As the flashbacks hit, we’re reminded of the days they’d spent relishing the love the world condemned them for. They’d shoot the wineskin and shower in the wine as the frowning prostitutes left them alone in the cellar. They’d love each other like there was no real life to go back to once their time came to an end. Despite not being a part of the journey, we know that reality came knocking on the door of the castle they’d built in the air. 

Will Jake and Silva get back together?

The entire purpose of the melodramatic showdown between Jake, Silva, and Joe is to give the lovers a chance to prove their devotion to one another. There’s a lot at stake when Jake’s suspicion about Silva helping Joe skip town turns out to be true. On the one hand, there’s the responsibility he has as the town sheriff, a responsibility further bolstered by his relationship with the victim. And then there’s the matter of his long-lost love standing right in front of him. It isn’t any easier on Silva. He has no option but to help his son get away with the crime he’s likely committed. But the cop holding a gun to Joe’s face is the love of his life. Even if he were to dismiss the onlooker who’d seen someone matching Joe’s description flee the victim’s house, Joe’s insulting remark about the victim is damning evidence against him. 

Ever since Silva’s showed up in town, it’s made it all the more difficult for Jake to carry out the investigation. Even as he’s facing the armed suspect, his eyes wander off, looking for Silva. I don’t think Silva thought it through before pulling the trigger on Jake so his son could get away. I guess it’s only supposed to indicate that the masculine role expected of Silva eclipses his love for Jake to some extent. Nevertheless, the astute gunslinger knew he wasn’t shooting Jake fatally. Jake desperately holds on to his cynicism as he’s lovingly nursed back to health by the man he wants to charge with attempted murder.

Strange Way of Life‘s ending sequence is more about the contemplations their circumstances invoke than the matter at hand. Silva’s love for Jake once made him dream of domestic bliss. They were to take care of each other at the ranch Silva’s always wanted them to manage together. The scene with a wounded Jake being bandaged up by Silva isn’t what you’d call the picture of a happy home. But it’s a slice of that very dream. A forbidden taste of what could’ve been had the two been allowed to love who they loved. Maybe now that he’s lost those he called family, Jake wouldn’t mind opting for the blissful life he’d need to hide from the world. But that possibility is too good to be true. So maybe this is all Silva and Jake get after spending 25 years apart. A fleeting glimpse of all they could’ve had. 

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Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjee
In cinema, Lopamudra finds answers to some fundamental questions of life. And since jotting things down always makes overthinking more fun, writing is her way to give this madness a meaning.

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