The action thriller “The Desperate Hour” tells the story of a single mother, Amy Carr, played by Naomi Watts, whose husband Peter passed away a year ago. Amy lives with her two kids, Emily (Sierra Maltby), who goes to elementary school, and the elder one, Noah (Colton Gobbo), a teenager. In the aftermath of his father’s death, Noah has grown distant from Amy.
One day, Amy wakes up after having a nightmare and decides to skip work for the day. She plans a film night with her kids. She puts Emily on her school bus and goes out jogging after being unable to rouse Noah from sleep, who clearly doesn’t want to go to school either. She is 5 miles away from home when an alert on her phone tells her that all the schools in town have been placed on lockdown. Later on, she gets to know that while Emily is safe in a shelter, shots have been fired at her son’s school. What follows is the panic-inducing effort of a mother to contact her son, whom she finds out to be inside the school building.
The Desperate Mother And The Distanced Son
Amy is still coping with the death of her husband, which is why the relationship with her son, who clearly misses his father too, is not the way it should be. There is this distance that has formed that seems to be a result of a missing common link, i.e., Peter. This gives rise to the likelihood that Amy is his stepmother. This also addresses Noah’s upset state, which might be a result of him missing his mother too (here we have to consider that Emily is Noah’s step-sister, Amy’s daughter by blood). Noah also takes Lexapro, a medicine used to treat anxiety and depression. All these can be the reasons why Amy’s efforts to make Noah feel better are not out of her inability to manage work and family but her trying to get close to Noah and not letting him feel alone. But then again, the step-mother theory seems too much, keeping in mind the video that we see of the four having a wonderful time together (when Peter was alive). Either way, the fact that Amy loves both the children equally is made palpable throughout the film.
“The Desperate Hour” also addresses Noah’s phone addiction, a topical issue that also contributes to aloofness and even depression. Noah is obsessed with social media, so much so that he even made a video to share the news of his father’s death with the world. Social media is the way he vents out his grief, something he is unable to do in any other way. This is also a result of depression. And finally, the stage for the upcoming catastrophe is set when she mentions that she has planned a film night with her kids.
In the aftermath of the lockdown, Amy finds out that Emily is safe, but it isn’t enough as she isn’t with her. On top of that, she also comes to know that Noah is one of the hostages. She has lost her husband, and now it seems that she will have to lose her son too. All of this brings the film to its bare essentials: a mother, her phone, and a constant state of ever-increasing panic.
What adds to her pain even more is when detective Ed Paulson questions her about Noah. For Amy to even consider that Noah is responsible for the shooting is something that stems from Amy’s questioning her own failure as a mother and not from Noah’s anxiety. After being unable to reach Noah, she leaves him a message in which she immediately admits to making Noah “angry about so many things” (yet another reference to our stepmother theory).She wants to be better with him. And all she wants is for him to stop what he is doing, if at all. The catharsis comes during the end credits of “The Desperate Hour,” when we find Noah doing another of his Insta Lives, where he says that he feels like things are getting better.
The Unknown Shooter
It’s a shame that we are not given any details about the gunner throughout the film. We only know his name, Robert Ellis, and that he was a former food service worker at Noah’s school. What he mentions in the video (about people laughing as if he was invisible) raises the probability that he may have been subjected to continuous ridicule by the students and maybe even the teachers, something that made him desperate. Films have often used this as a motivation for wrongdoings. But even then, we are unable to figure out how he got the guns. There is an absolute no-show of the gunner and his intentions. We also don’t get to know what happens to him at the end of “The Desperate Hour.” Is he dead or alive? Knowing this would have added to the catharsis.
A Helpful Lakewood
A very effective thing that the film shows is the sheer positivity of all the side characters. Every person Amy calls helps her in his or her own ways. But the story doesn’t make them go out of their way for it. CJ ascertains that her son has gone to school. Mrs. Fisher lets her talk to Emily, which is a huge relief. Greg, who works with Amy, probably in the tax department, gives her the contact for Robert Ellis, the shooter. 911 dispatcher Dedra Wilkinson consoles her and helps her calm down. Even the cab driver gives her his phone to talk. All these good deeds are what balance the film against its weight of panic and bring us a handful of momentary smiles that do work their magic.
The Significance of Death
What’s striking is that death is used as a motivation for Amy to open up to Noah. It is only after Amy hears that a woman who was a victim of the shooting has passed away that she voicemails Noah about everything they have been going through, mentioning his father, apologizing for making him feel bad many times, and, for the first time in the film (and probably for a long time in the story), telling him how much she loves him.
Interestingly, if we divide the film into two parts based on its run time, i.e., 84 minutes, we get 42 minutes. And she leaves him a voicemail 42 minutes into the movie.
“The Desperate Hour” Ending Explained: Is Robert Ellis Dead or Alive?
The film doesn’t reveal if the shooter, Robert Ellis, is dead or alive. There is a point where Amy speaks to him, and he tells her that he wants all that’s happening to stop. This means that he has had enough of the panic and terror of it all. But unfortunately, what he has started can only end in two ways: death or a life sentence. From the looks of it, we are forced to think that he is probably shot dead since he has already killed a woman and the police cannot risk it happening again. If Robert was captured alive, Amy must have gone to meet him in jail. And that conversation is something we would have desperately listened to.