The word “windfall” refers to any light object blown down by the wind as well as an amount of money received unexpectedly, and Charlie McDowell’s thriller drama “Windfall” tries to create a visual presentation of both these interpretations. Starring Jason Segel, Lily Collins, and Jesse Plemons, the film shows three unnamed characters as they are stuck in the most weird and uncomfortable situations and, in the process, try to discover more about each other. Despite having a strong and unusual premise and first half, the film, unfortunately, falters in carrying itself till the end.
‘Windfall’ Plot Summary
A man is seen spending leisurely hours inside a vast and lavish villa compound—he walks through the orange orchard, plucking fruits and having them . He relaxingly drinks orange juice looking at the mountains in the distance, sits by the swimming pool, and calmly moves through the house, which is seemingly not his own. It is established very soon that the unnamed man, credited as “Nobody,” is an intruder who has broken into the property and has been taking his own sweet time stealing some cash, jewelry, and an expensive watch. The villa belongs to a rich and influential CEO of a company (credited as “CEO”) who is right on the way with his wife (credited as “Wife”) to spend some days of vacation in peace.
As the intruder browses through the office, the couple arrive and enter the house, forcing him to nervously hide behind pillars. Sensing that the situation might get stickier from here, he tries to make a run for the main door but is spotted, and therefore stopped, by the wife. Managing to take the wife hostage, he takes charge of the situation, and the husband, who has now joined the scene, and orders the couple to sit down and hand over their phones. The husband convinces him that there is more money hidden in the office, and that they will completely forget about this entire episode if the intruder agrees to take the money and go away without causing them any harm. The burglar does not intend to harm them either; his intention is only to get whatever he can and leave without getting into trouble.
After the couple hands over the money to him, the man locks them up inside a small sauna room and leaves the property. When about to drive away in his car, the man spots a security camera on a tree right in front of him, which has obviously spotted him by now. Realizing that he would get caught later, he runs back into the compound, chases the couple down (who had managed to break out of the sauna room), and sits them down to discuss the situation and the possible outcome. As the three nonchalantly sit and discuss what to do next, it is decided that the CEO would pay the intruder five hundred thousand dollars, which would let him start a new life, in return for him not causing them any harm, especially with the 9mm gun that he had stolen from inside the house itself. However, bringing in that much cash would take at least a day, and so the three start to wait for this moment of impending freedom.
The CEO And The Wife: A Pretense Of Happy Marriage
Over the next thirty or so hours of the plot, and an hour of the film’s duration, McDowell gradually reveals more about his characters bit by bit. The CEO is like one of the modern villains of today’s capitalist world. He is almost obnoxiously proud of his achievements in the field of technology, but is also terribly insecure about the superficial power he seems to hold. He seemingly has a history of having downsized businesses, resulting in the sacking of innumerable individuals, and seems to be haunted by it at most times. When he first tries to break into the intruder’s character, this is the first thing that he suspects: that the intruder must have been among the people who had lost his job because of him and is now back for revenge.
The billionaire has his own denial-fueled reasoning about it in his head as well, believing that by sacking them, he had redirected innumerable people to more sustainable jobs and lives. There is obviously an air of “money can solve everything” about him, and at times he rants about the burdens of being a rich white man in this day and age, things that only an egoist white privileged man could say. But without much sense or idea of real-world scenarios like the one he finds himself in, he is completely clueless and quite terrified on the inside.
When the gardener of the villa comes to the house the next morning, the CEO callously gets him involved in the mess as well. On a piece of paper that the gardener gives him to sign, he writes an order to “Call 911,” which the intruder inadvertently finds out and takes the gardener hostage as well. The CEO’s only weapon is to try and demean the intruder, calling him a loser who is jealous of the billionaire’s superiority, which only backfires, as the enraged intruder shoots the gun, which scares the gardener into trying and running through a glass window in an attempt to escape. He fails miserably, stumbling upon sharp shards of broken glass, and bleeds to death within a few minutes.
Quite as expected from a character like this, the CEO expects to yield control (albeit a soft one) over his wife and their marriage as well. Almost from the beginning, the wife is presented as not being in a happy space in the marriage. She is seen flinching at her husband when he unnecessarily lies to the intruder about things, correcting her husband’s choice of words about their seemingly failing marriage, and getting irritated when her husband interrupts her.
Despite all of this, she keeps sticking to the façade of marriage for the first part of the “Windfall.” She mentions that she is in a happy place professionally and knows with surety that it will continue to be so for the next five years, to which the CEO corrects her by reminding her how she will be taking a break from work when they have a baby together soon. The wife clearly does not want this to happen, neither the baby nor the break from work, but she does not retort either. That night, in a shameless suggestion, her husband tells her to try anything and get close to the intruder to create some opportunity of escape. She is understandably disgusted by it, and does not pay heed, and her character starts changing from the next morning. She now starts talking back to her husband, and when he rants about the weakness of people asking for help, she reminds that she had asked for help from him to repay her education loans. She reveals that she is aware of her husband’s dirty affairs (or crimes, maybe), for which he has paid money to stop the women from talking.
Gradually, she questions his need to involve the gardener in the situation, his inability to help or handle the situation in any positive way, and finally tries to take things into her own hands. She talks to the intruder, trying to calm him down and compose him so that he does not fire the gun again and so that the situation does not escalate anymore till the money arrives.
‘Windfall’ Ending Explained: Does The Intruder Get To Walk Away With The Money?
When a car finally arrives to drop the bag of money off in the driveway, the intruder releases the wife to go out and fetch it. Now that the wife is walking out to pick up the money, she once considers the chance of fleeing at first. She had earlier spoken of a moment right before her marriage when she looked down at her feet and considered either taking the step forward, making her the expectedly obedient wife of a billionaire CEO, or the step back, which would allow her to live her life freely. She had chosen the step forward, and now she once again looks down at her feet, only to choose the step back. She walks back into the house with the money, and the intruder counts it off. Although her hands and feet are tied, the wife manages to pick up a broken piece of glass with which she tries to cut herself free.
Meanwhile, right before leaving, the intruder has a final face-off with the CEO, revealing that the snobbish man will forever remain lonely as his unhappy wife has been taking birth control pills. The wife takes a shocked pause upon hearing this, and then continues to try to cut the cables from her feet. Just as the burglar steps out of the house, she gets hold of a heavy stone showpiece and smashes his head with it. Her husband laughs out loud, congratulating her, and tells her to release him free, but the wife picks up the dropped gun and shoots him dead with it. She then places the gun back in the intruder’s dead hand, and once again looks down at her feet in a state of utter shock and fright. With a deep sigh, one appropriate after the completion of a long-overdue task, she takes a step forward and slowly moves towards the dark driveway.
In all honesty, the ending of “Windfall” does not go with the rest of the film. The events in the final minutes seem way too sudden and almost forced, as they lack any build-up whatsoever. Despite the wife’s growing sense of discomfort in her marriage, the violent outburst does appear to be out of place. The character of Nobody remains hidden in the darkness—he does not reveal who he is, what his past or present is, or why he has come to rob this specific house. That is not necessarily bad, though, as he can be thought of only as a catalyst, without many purposes of his own, but only to stimulate important changes in the lives of two other people. In this sense, “Windfall” can be perceived as the story of the woman, as she moves from being a docile wife to becoming a free individual over the course of a day and a half. This is perhaps the only way to console oneself about an otherwise forgettable film that showed a lot of promise initially.
“Windfall” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Charlie McDowell.