‘The Guilty’ Ending, Explained – Was Joe Guilty?

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The Guilty is inspired by the 2018 film of the same name, directed by Gustav Moller. This 2021 adaptation has been written by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Antoine Fuqua. The skeleton of the film might be the same as its 2018 inspiration, but the coruscating performance by Jake Gyllenhaal is a spectacle in itself, if not anything else.

The film takes you on a journey where you see a protagonist burdened by guilt, and everything he touches just breaks into fragments. He tries to mend those broken pieces, but it becomes as difficult as bringing two like-poles of a magnet together.


‘The Guilty’ Plot Summary

A police officer, Joe, is on duty for attending 911 distress calls. Though he attends these calls, we often see him losing his temper and patience on the callers. He often judges the inconsequential nature of problems these people have until a caller named Emily gives him a call. Emily blurs out facts about her whereabouts and the danger that she is stuck in. The disclosure of the information is ambiguous in nature. Joe has to fill in the blanks at a lot of places. Emily pretends to talk to her daughter, while in reality, she is making a 911 call.

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Joe senses the fragility and precariousness of Emily’s situation and therefore starts asking her yes and no questions. He formulates his conjectures based upon the fragmentary conversation with Emily. Joe concludes that a woman named Emily has been kidnapped by her ex-husband/partner and her two children are alone at home and in grave danger. He immediately informs the patrolling officers about whatever information he has. He then gets on a call with Abby, Emily’s six-year-old daughter. She says that her little brother Oliver is sleeping in the room, and she is terrified as her mother has left her alone.

Joe, for some reason, becomes personally invested in this case, and we do see him doing things that are beyond the scope of his job. As the story unfolds, so does the mystery behind this piqued cop. We get to know that his irrational anger and engulfing frustration is stemming from something way deeper. The surface withers and leaves open the cracks, and we finally get to see a glimpse of the camouflaged guilt.


Why was Joe calling Jess?

Joe tries to connect to his wife, Jess, to talk to his daughter. Through the conversation, we realized that it had been six months since the couple had separated. Jess doesn’t detest Joe’s presence altogether but also, at the same time, believes that it is high time that he should move on and pull himself together. She wanted him to accept the fact that she was no longer a part of his life.

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Joe is a deranged man. He had asthma which was not helping his already deplorable mental condition. Joe asks Jess about a guy named Rick and if she would be present in the trial that was supposed to happen the day after. Jess just wants to get done with the conversation. She is finding no point in mulling over things that hold an exiguous significance in her life.


Why was Joe being tried under the law?

We get to know that Joe had been accused of a crime, and Rick was his friend, who was the primary defense witness. Joe was banking upon him. But Rick had his doubts. He thought that it was a lost cause.

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A few police officials had come to influence his decision to appear as the defense witness. He had been drinking on the eve of the trial when Joe called him and asked to go to Emily’s home, where her daughter, Abby, was alone. Rick goes to Emily’s home only to find something that even Joe hadn’t expected.

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‘The Guilty’ Ending Explained – What happened in the end?

The big revelation is finally made when Joe starts to understand the situation. Rick tells him that Oliver, who was Emily’s younger one, was smeared in blood. Abby told Joe that Oliver was sleeping, but little did she know that he lay unconscious on the bed.

Joe had misunderstood the whole situation and acted on an impulse as he had done before. Emily had hurt her son because she was mentally unstable while her husband Henry was just taking her away from the kids. Till now, Joe thought that Henry was the one who was to be blamed for all this.

Emily climbs over the bridge, and just to stop her from jumping down the bridge, Joe tells her that he also had killed someone. There was a teenager whom he thought to be an accused and ended up killing him in confusion. Joe finally accepts. He stops running from his past. Joe stops defending himself. He lets his guard down. He takes a step towards the path of absolution.

The next day he gives an interview to a magazine and pleads guilty to all that he was being accused of.


‘The Guilty’ – Is It Worth Your Time?

Nic Pizzolatto and Antoine Fuqua have taken some astute steps where on one side, they have maintained the sanctity of the original 2018 movie but also have brought an authentic and original flavor to this 2021 adaptation. The camera is fixed chiefly on Jake Gyllenhaal’s face. It takes us through the myriad of emotions that are boiling and fuming inside him.

Once again, the Nightcrawler actor proves that he is one of the most dependable performers who can carry the whole film on his shoulder. There is not a single dull moment in this briskly paced drama, and it is definitely worth a watch!


The Guilty is a 2021 Crime Thriller film directed by Antoine Fuqua. The film starring Jake Gyllenhaal is adapted by Nic Pizzolatto from a 2018 film of the same name, directed by Gustav Moller.

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Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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