‘The Last Thing Mary Saw’ is set in the mid-19th century and is revealed by the main character, Sister Mary (Stefanie Scott). The movie opens with Mary, blindfolded, blood dripping from her eyes, interrogated by the local constable. It revolves around her forbidden relationship with a housemaid and a book responsible for supernatural occurrences. The title “The Last Thing Mary Saw” refers to Mary’s experiences that led to her blinded and bloodied state.
Writer-director Edoardo Vitaletti sets the stage, right from the first scene, for a gloomy ambiance that plays a pivotal role in establishing the nature of events about to be revealed. Blindfolded, Mary is accused of murder and witchery, but her evident helplessness contradicts her accusations. She reveals what led to her present state, which is shown in three chapters. These chapters make ‘The Last Thing Mary Saw’ feel almost like a play, which constitutes a beginning, a climax, and an end.
- Chapter 1: The Temple of earthly Desires — This chapter shows the relationship between Mary and Eleanor.
- Chapter 2: A Monstrous Birth — This chapter shows the homeless man arriving at the household and ultimately killing Eleanor.
- Chapter 2: The Old Lady of Bethabara — This chapter shows the Matriarch coming back from the dead.
These 3 chapters are also included in the same book of unknown text and woodcut illustrations that she has in her possession. We do not know whether this book provoked Mary to have a carnal affair with housemaid Eleanor. But every significant occurrence in the film does have a mention in the book, albeit in a more Biblical/threatening manner. Coming back to the story, Mary’s parents turn to their Matriarch to cleanse her. This results in the “correction” of the two women, which, as expected, is punitive. Despite the corrections, the two women do not give up on their love. More corrections follow, which prove the Matriarch’s occult abilities. Eleanor and Mary decide to elope. But before that, they plan on poisoning everyone in the household, beginning with the Matriarch. Soon after, she is found dead in her bed.
At her funeral, the movement of one of her fingers was noticed by everyone. And no words can portray the sinister vibe that silence does in this scene, thanks to the screenplay. The tapping of her left index finger in unison with the ticking of a clock seemed to say that something dark was about to occur. The very next moment, the finger turns black.
After this, Mary and Eleanor manage to poison every other member of the household except the father, who is shot by the homeless man. As to where this man has come from, we do not know yet. But things aren’t over, and they get worse when the man also shoots Eleanor. While Mary sits by Eleanor’s body, she asks him whose voice he heard that brought him here. The very next moment, we see the Matriarch rise from her coffin. This one scene is more than enough to give us the chills. She then hands Mary the book and asks her to read from it what she believes to be the final chapter of the movie, i.e., The Old Lady of Bethabara. The chapter tells the story of two women, a noblewoman, and a servant, who are found bathing naked in a river by an old lady. The two women kill her to avoid any mention of their deed. They return to the riverbank the following day only to find the old lady alive. She kills the servant and blinds the noblewoman.
Something intriguing happens in this scene. While handing the book to Mary, the Matriarch tells her that for their story, they must draw inspiration from the very book. So does this mean that the book is somehow connected to the Matriarch? After all, everything in the Old Lady of Bethabara chapter does match with the latest occurrences in the movie. The servant, i.e., Eleanor, is killed; the old lady (the Matriarch) comes back from the dead after being poisoned by the ladies; and just at the chapter’s conclusion, the Matriarch mutilates Mary’s eyes with her bare fingers. Thus, we come to consider, if not believe, that the Matriarch is the old lady of Bethabara. Therefore, the stories in the book are indeed true.
‘The Last Thing Mary Saw’ Ending Explained
Mary was recovered by the local constable; the Matriarch was not found, and we again come back to the present. Naturally, the deaths of all the members of the household are her doing (Eleanor not being alive). And she will receive judgment, which is death by hanging. She is taken to a nearby tree late at night, where she is all set to be hanged. The constable removed her blind to reveal her mutilated eyes.
Interestingly, what we are shown is the face of Eleanor. For us, Eleanor’s death would be the last thing she saw before she was blinded. But for her, the last thing Mary saw was Eleanor’s face. This serves to question the title of the movie and our judgment. What could be the last thing that we get to see? Is it something we see before we lose our vision, our means to see the world, the deeds of people, and ourselves? Or is it something that we see just before we die? Those few moments when we realize that this is where life ends. During these moments, we see, not with our eyes but with our minds, the faces of our beloved, the moments spent together, the memories made together. Mary wanted Eleanor, and it was her face that would be the last thing she wanted to see. And she did.
But while all this shows the ending of the chapter, the book does not end there. And the proof of this is shown in the last scene of ‘The Last Thing Mary Saw.’ A zoom-in shot of the fingers of a hanging Mary shows the twitching of her left index finger, which has turned black, for a second just before the screen goes black. The black finger is a sign that just like the Matriarch, Mary too shall rise from the dead.
So will she be the new Matriarch, AKA the Old Lady of Bethabara, who will continue to carry forward the deeds as told in the book? Or are Mary and the Matriarch bound by some “divine intervention”? After all, the Matriarch did mention that they were both serving as examples of God’s new heaven.
There is another suggestion. The black finger does raise a question about the holiness of it all. The black finger, the black book, and even the Matriarch’s black dress, as opposed to Mary’s white dress, all point towards darkness or evil. Is this all evil’s doing? Were all the family members addressing Satan every time they prayed? If it is so, then Mary clearly wasn’t aware of it. And maybe that’s why she remained quiet and didn’t flinch while her eyes were being mutilated by the Matriarch. She had been following everything written in the book, which had led her to this “blinding” moment, the act symbolizing how she had been blind in God’s faith all along when God wasn’t even present.
Perhaps the sense of not knowing what will become of Mary makes for such an uncanny, if not sinister, ending. ‘The Last Thing Mary Saw’ does have the edge of a horror movie, but what makes it different is its nature of intrigue rather than thrill. It is able to persuade us with its events and manages to give us the creeps in a unique way; a compelling directorial debut by Edoardo Vitaletti.
‘The Last Thing Mary Saw’ is a 2021 Drama Thriller film written and directed by Edoardo Vitaletti.