The human mind is a dark alley. One never knows what goes there. One never knows what comes out of it. We are never able to understand the things that hurt us. And when we do not understand something, we tend to blame it on others. Hannah Cheesman’s thriller film, The Boathouse, is a tale about a woman, a pianist to be specific, who buries a violent past in her mind. After a traumatic car accident, Anne Wilson tries to rebuild her life again. But as she takes the new job as a nanny, destiny brings her closer to the horrors that traumatized her in the first place. Will Anne ever be able to connect the dots to her blurred visions and find peace in her life?
‘The Boathouse’ Plot Summary
A music student, Anne Wilson (Michaela Kurimsky), gets a summer job as a nanny. She is hired to look after her professor, Natalia Szabo’s, kids in a remote cottage (a boathouse). Last Thanksgiving, Anne was in a tragic car accident, which left a mental scar. Anne’s psychiatrist doesn’t want Anne to be alone with the kids. But she convinces her psychiatrist that Natalia’s husband, Dominic, will be visiting them from time to time. Anne wants to get back to her normal life and spend some time alone to start composing music again, hence the job in a remote cottage seems perfect.
Without further ado, Anne visits the cottage in mid-June and finds out that Natalia walked out on her family six months ago (the last thanksgiving). Anne tries to befriend Natalia’s kids, Emily and Leon, to find out more about their estranged mother. Dominic’s daughter from his first marriage, Emily, tells Anne that Natalia has moved to Europe to pursue her career as a pianist and start a new life with her new lover in Prague.
As Anne settles into her new job, Natalia’s son from her first marriage, Leon, shows his hatred toward Emily, Anne, and Dominic. He attacks Anne and exhibits signs of a sociopath. Anne’s past traumatizes her too, as she starts sleepwalking in the night and gets visions of her controlling professor, Natalia. There are too many mysteries revolving around Anne and Natalia, and only a satisfactory end will connect the missing dots.
What Happened To Natalia?
The brief but comprehensive scenes that explored Natalia Szabo’s character suggested that she was no less ruthless than J.K. Simmons’ character, Terence Fletcher, in Whiplash (2014). She dominated and emotionally abused Anne during her personal piano lessons. Maybe Natalia was brutally hunting for perfection. At some point, Anne told Natalia’s husband, Dominic, that the traits of a performer in Natalia always overpowered the professor in her persona. In her pursuit of perfection, Natalia made drastic changes to Anne’s composition, and at the end of the day, she stole it for her album without giving the required credits.
Laura Peterson, Natalia’s neighbor, unraveled a similar trait about her when she told Anne that Natalia dominated Dominic as well. Hence, it could be concluded that Natalia lacked empathy and was a potential sociopath. Her son, Leon, received similar traits from her mother, who didn’t feel guilty about killing a rabbit or cutting himself with a sharp knife.
The question that arose from the whole ordeal was, why did Anne still become a nanny for Natalia’s kids even when she tortured her to the core? The reason was simple: Anne needed money to pay for her music school, and Natalia promised Anne a grant for the same. Natalia gave grant money to Anne along with other perks like a studio and an apartment, so she had materialistic reasons to stick with her.
When Anne came to the Boathouse, she started having visions of Natalia’s authoritative voice and the tunes of the piano that she heard in her sleep. These visions were blurred chunks of Anne’s past memory, which led her to Natalia’s dead body. In the end, Anne accidentally fell into the river and found Natalia’s body in the water. Hence, Natalie didn’t walk out on her family. Instead, she was killed.
Who Killed Natalia?
On the night of the last Thanksgiving, Natalia brought Anne to the boathouse to work on the composition for her new album. At that time, Dominic was away as usual, and Emily and Leon stayed at Laura Peterson’s house. Laura saw Anne that night, and that was why she told Anne, “I’ve seen you before.” But Anne told everyone that it was her first time in the boathouse because her accident (that happened on the same Thanksgiving night) had affected her memory.
Natalia not only emotionally tortured Anne but also stole her composition. Anne was infuriated and wanted revenge. On the night of Thanksgiving, Anne and Natalia entered into an argument that turned violent. Anne pushed Natalia, and she lost her balance. She banged her head against the staircase and rolled into the water, where she drowned to death. In a panic, Anne left the boathouse and, while driving her car, envisioned Natalia’s ghost sitting in the back seat. Anne lost control of the vehicle and a car hit her, leading to a tragic accident.
‘The Boathouse’ Ending Explained – Why Anne Tried To Kill Dominic?
Anne found warmth and comfort in Dominic and thus began a relationship with him. Dominic believed that Anne was a victim of Natalia’s brutality and thus decided to pay for her tuition in good faith. When Brigitte Abernathy, a family friend of the Szabos, told Anne that Dominic could be as controlling as Natalia, Anne became suspicious.
After Natalia’s dead body was found, Detective Monroe began an intensive investigation to find out what happened to Natalia. Laura Peterson told Detective Monroe that she saw Anne with Natalia at the boathouse when she disappeared. For the time being, Anne lied to Monroe that she didn’t remember the events because of her accident. But at the back of her mind, Anne had remembered what really happened that night. Hence, Anne needed an escape.
Anne knew that Leon hated his step-father, Dominic, and because of his sociopathic tendencies, he wouldn’t mind getting rid of him. One night, a devious Anne drugged Dominic and later banged her head on Natalia’s sculpture. She called the police and lied to them that Dominic assaulted her. Through her villainous scheme, Anne wanted to frame Dominic for the murder of Natalia.
Anne tried to run away from the boat, but as usual, she forgot to untie the rope (the trait established at the beginning of the film). A dizzy Dominic tried to stop Anne when Anne attacked him with a shovel. Leon heard the fuss and came out. She told Leon that Dominic killed Natalia, just like he burned his first wife, Jemma, and now he was trying to harm Anne. She played the victim card with grace and manipulated Leon into attacking Dominic. Anne used the opportunity and picked Leon’s crossbow. She killed Dominic, making her stance look like an impulsive act to protect Leon.
The children believed Anne, and in the end, she convinced the detectives as well. The ending shot of The Boathouse visualized Anne on the stage performing for a grand audience. Hence, even after two murders and a plethora of schemes, Anne got what she yearned for: artistic recognition.
The Boathouse is a 2021 drama thriller film directed by Hannah Cheesman from a screenplay written by Elizabeth Stewart.