‘The End We Start From’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Does Mother Reunite With R?


The 2023 survival drama film The End We Start From is a plain story told in a heartfelt manner, successfully evoking sympathy for the characters in some instances while feeling a bit too drab in others. Adapted from Megan Hunter’s novel of the same name, the film presents a disaster-struck London city as heavy rains flood the country terribly, causing massive disruption in society. Amidst this terribly difficult time, a woman must survive along with her baby while facing all the challenges of a post-apocalyptic world. Overall, The End We Start From is worth watching because of Jodie Comer’s brilliant performance, even though the film could have arguably been more interesting.

Spoiler Alert

Plot Summary: What is the film about?

The End We Start From begins with a woman casually talking to her husband over the phone, discussing insignificant things from their daily schedule, while taking a bath in a tub. The woman, who remains unnamed throughout the film and is mentioned only as Mother, is pregnant with her first child. The swollen belly suggests that her due date is pretty close by, and she is still getting accustomed to the massive changes in her body. The husband, mentioned only as R, is away for work with the intention of rushing back home whenever his wife has a medical emergency. There had been a light rain drizzling outside for quite some time, and now the intensity of it has suddenly increased. As water from the outside suddenly starts to seep inside the house of the couple, it becomes evident that the rain has been going on for days. It is later mentioned that after many months of severe drought, this is the first rainfall, which is equally terrible because of its intensity and severity.

Around the same time that the flooding starts, Mother also realizes that her water has broken, meaning that she is about to give birth soon. Meanwhile, chaos unfolds as devastating flood waters barge into the house, carrying away furniture and posing a great threat to everyone living in the area. The protagonist tries contacting R, failing to do so as the phone lines have been disrupted, and her calling the emergency services does not help either. It is clear that this natural disaster has already caused much damage to other parts of the country, leading to the emergency services already being quite busy. Mother is told that she needs to wait before an ambulance can go fetch her, and as the woman resolutely holds on, she finally hears the soothing siren of an ambulance approaching. 

The mother is rescued and rushed to the hospital, where she finally gives birth to a baby boy. After a long discussion, she and R named their child Zeb and waited for the day when they would be allowed to leave the hospital. Once Zeb has been deemed healthy enough, the couple is allowed to leave with their baby, but the question of where to return still remains. The house where they used to live has been destroyed by the flood, as the entire street is still underwater, and the entirety of London and England is devastated by the effect of the ongoing flood. R decides to take the family to his parents’ house, as that would be the only safe shelter.

What happens to R’s parents?

Society’s response to the devastating floods in England plays an important and interesting role in the plot of The End We Start From, as it shapes the narrative forward. It is reported through radio news programs that many of the cities and villages situated at higher levels, and therefore comparatively less affected by the floods, were not allowing outsiders to take shelter there. The world in this film is incredibly selfish, and the primary reason for it is the extreme shortage of food supplies and other necessities. Supplies are given out by the government through aid trucks and ration shelters, but the supply is clearly much lower than the demand. Because of the massive crowds gathering every time any aid is handed out, it is impossible to maintain any queue or keep the desperate citizens in check. As a result, rampant looting and rioting began all over the country, causing even more disruption.

When R and their Mother drive towards the town where his parents live, the authorities initially stop them from entering, as they do not have local IDs. Requesting the official and showing him their baby does help, and the couple is finally allowed to enter the region. R’s parents, referred to as G and N, are very welcoming of them, as they are very relieved that the family members have been able to reunite during such devastating times. The presence of another woman, who seemingly helps run G and N’s business, is quite awkward and rather jealous of Mother and her young baby. The reason is revealed to be that the woman had lost her own boy in the flood, as the latter had not yet returned, and there was no news of him either. Although Mother and Zeb are quite at peace at the place, the homely situation changes after a few weeks, when all the rations in the house have been used up.

G and N’s house was a safe abode because of the fact that the couple had a habit of hoarding things as part of their preparation for any emergency situation. Their decision had truly paid off at present, and the family survived well for a few weeks. But when the supplies run out, G, N, and R decide to go out to the nearest locality and get some food for themselves. Mother and Zeb are obviously the biggest priorities for the family, and the three leave the house in order to provide for them. The woman and her baby have to spend the next few days alone at the house, and she also goes through the difficulties of motherhood at this very time. Without anyone else around to help, she has to do all of the household chores by herself, all while taking care of little Zeb as well. Mother is sometimes on the brink of losing her calm, as she even abandons the crying baby in one instance before again tending to him.

The nature of the situation is such that Mother also has to be equally selfish at one instance, when a helpless man and his son come over to the house asking for help. Although she lets them in and gives them some food, all she can do is give them temporary help. It is not possible, especially with baby Zeb in the house, to let a complete stranger in, and so the woman ultimately turns them away. But the extent of selfishness and lack of concern towards others in this cruel dystopian world becomes evident only when R returns home with his parents’ car. The absence of G and the grieving faces of R and N make Mother realize that something terrible has happened to her mother-in-law. It is revealed that G had been killed in a stampede that occurred near the food truck when supplies were being handed out. Only shortly after the tragic incident, when R and N return to their house, the father, N, also kills himself, unable to bear the loss of his beloved wife.

Where does O take Mother?

The young couple can no longer stay put at the parents’ house anymore, and they once again find themselves on the road with baby Zeb, seeking shelter somewhere. Mother tries her luck at the food truck as well, but quickly realizes that nobody will show any mercy to her because of the baby, and Zeb might be terribly injured or even killed if exposed to such a situation. Thus, the couple has to ultimately decide to seek shelter at the relief camps that have been set up by various authorities. They reach one such camp but are told that only those in utmost need of care, meaning Mother and Zeb, will be allowed, while R has to leave them there. Despite not wanting to do so, Mother has to agree to the plan, having to live away from the love of her life, her husband, R. This distance affects the woman terribly, too, and from then on, Mother remains determined to try her best to reunite with the man someday, hoping that he too will survive till then.

At this camp, Mother meets with another woman named O, who also has a young baby almost identically aged as Zeb. But unlike Mother, whose husband had always been by her side, providing all the support she needed, O’s experience with the father of her child had been very different. The man had fled from any responsibilities right after the birth of the baby, and so O had to be independent from that very time. This is also why she has no attachment whatsoever, and her only concern is regarding her young daughter. But Mother can never get used to such an existence, and she keeps imagining R around her, even in the camp.

Soon, the shelter at the camp is also destroyed as looters break into the compound with guns, with no care for the residents staying at the place. Because the camp was housing so many survivors, it had ample supplies of food and other necessities, which had become the target for the looters. The place is completely ransacked, and Mother and O are lucky to escape along with their respective babies. The plan for the two women is to go towards the coast, where an acquaintance of O apparently picks up any survivors and takes them back to their own camp. On the way, they come across another man named AB, who indirectly gives hope to Mother.

In the strange, helpless world following the flood, most people had been trying to totally forget the lives they had left behind before the disaster and were focusing on this new kind of survival. Many had been displaced from their homes and separated from their family members, and most decided to forget about these lost ties and to start afresh. But AB is different from all these people, as he still remembers and yearns for the life before the disaster. This is why he is able to play music and start dancing with the women even amidst such difficult times, just like young people would before their lives were torn apart by natural disasters.

Similarly, when Mother finally arrives at the camp where O takes her, she realizes that she, too, does not want to completely forget her past and start afresh. The camp, where O rather enjoys herself, is a commune where everything is fixed with the sake of the entire camp in mind. Although Mother does not seemingly have any specific problem with such a setup, she just cannot fathom staying at the place in peace and tranquility with the thought of R still struggling to survive somewhere else in her mind. Thus, Mother decides to leave the commune and return to London, along with baby Zeb, knowing that she will manage to keep him safe no matter what.

Does Mother reunite with R?

After returning to London, Mother sees the devastating effects of the flood on the city, and she seriously doubts whether she can ever meet her husband again. The woman had a serious breakdown at one of the camps, too, fearing the worst had happened to R. However, there is a re-emergence of hope when Mother takes a look at the board with all the missing persons posters and sees a picture of herself on it. This meant that sometime after the raid at the rescue shelter, R had still been alive, and he had put up her photo, hoping to find her.

During The End We Start From‘s ending, Mother returns to her old apartment in London along with Zeb and starts to clean the place up, deciding to continue living there irrespective of R’s presence. But in the end, R does return to the apartment, equally shocked to realize that someone had entered the place after he had left. Thus, the couple has a very emotional reunion, realizing that they have indeed managed to survive the terrible disaster, and together with baby Zeb, they now plan to start their lives afresh, in resonance with the very title of the film.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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