Directed by the Vang Brothers (Abel Vang and Burlee Vang), “They Live in the Grey” is a take on horror as a metaphor for traumatic repression. While the subject is interesting, the movie, in trying to establish the traumatic part, leaves the horror element unfulfilled. The film is 2 hours long with extended scenes where there is no need to just add to the script’s dragging. However, the climax is taken care of. And the moment of revelation allows the otherwise inane movie to make sense of itself. Overall, They Live in the Grey has flaws, but it is watchable.
‘They Live in the Grey’ Plot Summary
Claire Yang works at a child protective services agency and is given a new case involving Sophie Lang, a teen who lives with her mother, Audrey Lang, and father, Giles Lang. As per facts, Sophie’s bruises and cuts result from reckless skateboarding, which corroborates her mother Audrey’s testimonials.
Claire’s personal life also involves tragedy. She and her husband lost their son, Lucas, in a hit-and-run case. This created a distance between her and her husband, Peter, a police officer, who walked out (probably sensing her detachment). However, she has been having supernatural experiences and visions. Scared, she sleeps in her closet. But it isn’t enough.
Claire visits the Lang family and realizes that the Lang house too has something, not of this world. While talking to Sophie, she has a vision of a woman, followed by one where she sees her wrists cut and blood flowing from them. She decides to leave the case immediately.
Meanwhile, Sophie’s bruises keep on occurring, and the school decides to take her away from her parents. Claire makes up her mind to help them keep their child, especially Audrey, whom she doesn’t want to end up like herself. She then finds out that Giles slept with another woman when he was away while Audrey was pregnant with Sophie. Bizarre events follow, both at the Lang residence and Claire’s home. Claire tries to contact the supernatural entity, i.e., the woman in white, wreaking havoc at the Lang’s. She has an out-of-body experience and lands up in the hospital. After healing, she discovers that Sophie will be taken away from her parents and that she has lost her job too. With all the loss, she drives to the only place she knows will bring her solace, the field where she found her son’s body. There, she allows him and herself to let go of the pain and no longer be afraid. Claire then returns home and makes peace with her overjoyed husband. But that night, the very entity (a woman in white) visits her and reveals that it was Audrey who hit Sophie and caused all her cuts and bruises. It was the woman in white who was trying to protect Sophie all along.
Claire rushes to Lang’s household and finds Audrey pointing a gun at her husband (Giles) and Sophie. She reveals her anger and helplessness at Giles for not being with her when she needed him the most. But she wants him to suffer and thus turns to kill Sophie. Claire intervenes, and the bullet hits Giles, and he dies. Claire informs the police, takes Sophie, and they try to escape the house when Audrey rushes towards Claire with a knife and stabs her. At this point, the woman in white intervenes and kills Audrey. The wounded Claire and Sophie are recovered by Claire’s husband, Peter. “They Live in the Grey” ends with Claire accepting her ability and helping others who have had supernatural experiences.
Interestingly, Claire opens up a lot to Sophie. She finds her window in Sophie, and perhaps it is Sophie who, in turn, helps her move on from her past. The anguish, regret, and feeling of loss and pain accumulated to make Claire the aloof person that she has become.
‘They Live in the Grey’ Ending Explained: Is Claire Out of Danger?
It may be that Claire has moved on from the guilt of her son’s death, but that doesn’t make her invulnerable to it. At the end of the “They Live in the Grey,” we see her deciding to help those people who face supernatural experiences. This means that she will have to delve deeper into her powers and bridge the gap between her and the other world when need be. So she may be out of the “grey,” but she may be moving closer to the “dark.”
As far as the characters are concerned, there are three that deserve an explanation: Claire, Audrey, and the woman in white. Each of these characters is a mother whose cause for pain is her child. And the film revolves around these three, and the title, “They Live in the Grey,” alludes to them. Let’s explore them one by one.
While on the one hand, Claire has distanced herself completely from her husband, on the other hand, she has joined the Child Protection Services. This is clearly her way of redeeming herself for her inability to protect her own son. Her life is more like an irony wherein she wants to block her past, but she also wants to redeem it.
We meet Claire after she has already taken up the case, and we can tell that she has been having these visions since she took it. It is only at the end of “They Live in the Grey” that she reveals that she has had these visions all her life. But that doesn’t concern us. Here, it is important to note that her visions of her son don’t relate to the visions that the woman in white shows her. It is just that in letting go of her son and accepting her reality, she becomes her true self. And it is this true self that allows the woman in white to reveal the truth to her. But this courage to let go and say goodbye to her son comes not from within her, but from Ada (thanks to her clairvoyance): The old lady, probably dead, who was in bed beside her while she was admitted to the hospital. She tells Claire that it is not our burdens that make life hard, but our refusal to let somebody help us carry those burdens. By telling Claire about her husband, Ada shares her burden with Claire, who in turn helps her give up her worldly attachments (and rise to heaven.) In this way, Ada brings Claire face to face with the grief of guilt that she has unknowingly put on herself. This is also what lets the woman share her grief with Claire (remember the scene where she breaks down in front of Claire?).
What follows is Claire’s meeting with her son Lucas, where, with a lullaby, she lets him go. She also makes peace with Peter. She had a card stuck on the fridge that had the date of the day on which Lucas passed away. She turns the card around only to reveal that it is a picture of her with her husband, Peter, and their son, Lucas. This is symbolic of her accepting her present and thus paving her way to a “start over.” However, all is not over as immediately after, the woman in white reveals the truth to her. It seemed that the woman in white was the one responsible for hurting Sophie all this time. But now it is revealed that it was Audrey who hit her and the woman in white who was protecting her.
There is another perspective on Claire. And that is her relationship with Sophie. Claire’s guilt as a mother counteracts Sophie’s want of a guardian and vice versa. This is why Claire is able to share words about her son with Sophie in the same way Sophie is able to share her words about her father. It is she who first tells Claire that her cuts didn’t come from a fall. And this is perhaps what established contact between Claire and the woman in white.
That she lives in the grey zone has two interpretations. The first one is just what she tells Audrey, i.e., she lives in the shadow of the blame, the blame of her son’s death, because she doesn’t know where to put it (although she does take it out on herself). The other is that she lives in the “grey” area between life and death. This is basically her clairvoyant side, one that allows her to explore the dead while staying alive.
Overall, while we may not be able to link the two halves of Claire’s visions, her son and the woman in white, we can clearly state that both of these visions are linked by her motherhood. And it is this very link that also connects her to our next character.
Audrey is a fascinating character. That such a loving wife and mother could be prepared to kill her daughter and herself to make her husband suffer for ruining her life is just bizarre. While she had it in her from the beginning of the “They Live in the Grey,” she is easily able to mold herself in a way that makes it appear as if everything is just the way they should be. Audrey is pretty much like Claire in that she, too, carries a pain that has led to a pause in her life. She, too, is “living in the grey.”
We come to know about Audrey when we see her talking to Claire in the second half of the movie. This is when she tells Claire that her husband was away when she was pregnant with Sophie. Perhaps, the rage that she later reveals is partly because she never got the love she deserved from Giles. And what adds to her anger is the apparent fact that Giles returned only for Sophie. We may judge ourselves for thinking that she hated Sophie for being the reason for Giles’ return, but it is a possibility that we cannot overlook. She asks Claire whether she knows how it feels to have no control over her life. This is another way of saying that her life is at the mercy of another person. And this person can be either Giles or Sophie: Giles because she had no one else but him in her life and all she could do was wait for his return: And Sophie because if she wasn’t there, Giles wouldn’t have returned at all. And her only way to “control” her life is to control the reason her life is the way it is, Sophie. This is why she beats her. Although she doesn’t want to do it, it is her way of establishing control. This is evident when she asks Giles how much it takes for a mother to hit her child. Yet, her feat isn’t over, as she is prepared to kill her daughter and herself, only to make her husband suffer, just like she did all those years when he wasn’t with her. However, Claire intervenes just before she is about to shoot Sophie, and the bullet hits Giles, and he dies.
Ultimately, Audrey is killed by the woman in white.
The Woman in White
Her role in the movie is to provide Claire with the means to save Sophie. When she reveals the truth to Claire towards the end of the “They Live in the Grey,” she also reveals her past and how she died. Her husband killed her daughter, and she killed him out of rage. The death of her child led her to kill herself. Coincidentally, the house her family lived in is where the Langs live now. And all that she has been doing is because she wouldn’t let a parent hurt his or her child again, which, in this case, are Audrey and Sophie. But she could only do so much, so she needed the help of a human. And thankfully, she finds Claire, who is a clairvoyant. All this time, the woman in white too was “living in the grey”: she was to be free and yet was chained to Earth. And it was Claire who set her free. This is evident when, after she kills Audrey, she smiles at Claire as a gesture of thanks. She is free at last, maybe even with her son somewhere, but certainly not in the grey anymore.
‘They Live in the Grey’ is a 2022 Drama Horror film directed by the Vang Brothers (Abel Vang and Burlee Vang).