The Unforgivable Ending Explained: Sisterhood Of The Traveling Trauma

First with "Bird Box" and now with "The Unforgivable," Sandra Bullock truly is the queen of Netflix thrillers that everyone can't stop talking about. The film may be getting mixed reviews from critics, but audiences seem to be loving it, and the film has been grabbing the top spot on Netflix in countries all across the globe. The film centers on Bullock as Ruth Slater, a woman who was just released from prison after serving a 20-year sentence for killing a sheriff in her home. After losing both of her parents very young, Ruth was about to be evicted while raising her little sister Katherine when the killing took place. Now, Katherine has been living with an adopted family with little memory of Ruth or the killing, but is experiencing what looks like complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

Ruth sets out to try and track down her sister while her adoptive family tries to keep them apart, and while Ruth is being stalked by Steve, the son of the sheriff she killed, hellbent on revenge. The film is filled with twists and turns, but it's ultimately a story about sisterhood and the lengths some siblings will go to protect one another. The biggest twist of all, however, comes during the film's highly debated ending.

An Unshakable Bond

Ruth and Katie's mom passed away during Katie's delivery, and their father took his own life not too long after. The two of them being left alone was cause for concern, and the sheriff trying to evict Ruth was also looking to put Katie into foster care. When Ruth went to prison, she wrote to Katie constantly, but Katie's adoptive parents Michael Malcolm ("Richard Thomas) and Rachel Malcolm (Linda Emond) kept the letters from Katie, thinking that she'd benefit from not knowing about her traumatic past. Unfortunately, as any therapist (or adoptee activist will tell you) this isn't the case.

Ruth has never stopped loving or supporting Katie, even though Katie couldn't remember she existed. The bond the two share, however, did not go away with the memory. The Malcolm's other daughter, Emily, discovers all of Ruth's letters to Katie and is moved by her words. Emily seeks out Ruth without her parents or Katie's knowledge to not only answer some of Ruth's questions posed in the letters, but to also let her know of Katie's upcoming recital to reconnect. Unfortunately for Ruth and Katie, Steve has overheard and has chosen this event to finally enact his revenge.

The Twist is Sisterly Love

As it turns out, Ruth didn't kill the sheriff — a very young Katie did. Wanting to protect her baby sister, Ruth took the fall and went away for two decades in order to keep her out of trouble. When Steve is spying on Ruth, he mistakenly believes Emily is Katie, and decides to take her captive and kill her as the perfect revenge for Ruth's murder of his father, not knowing that Ruth didn't actually kill his father. Ruth tries to mend the situation and comes clean to Steve, who upon hearing the truth, doesn't have it in his heart to kill Emily. Ruth saves Emily, the police have been called, and when Emily's family comes to her aid, Katie is finally reunited with Ruth and the two hug for a really, really long time. The ending is super emotional, but it's also pretty confusing. Does Katie know Ruth is her sister, or is she just very grateful to this random woman who saved her sister?

While I obviously can't speak to the creator's intent, the ending seems to be reinforcing the sisterly bond between Ruth and Katie. Katie has been enduring unexplainable trauma due to her adoptive parents' omission, and seeing Ruth again may have finally been the missing piece that clicks all of her blocked memories back to the surface. Or, in a less poetic manner, the Malcolms likely may have just told Katie the truth now that their hands have been forced by Steve's kidnapping of Emily.