The Ending Of Under The Silver Lake Explained: Vindication But At What Cost?

Now that we've all collectively stopped crying over Andrew Garfield's beautiful performance as Jonathan Larson in "Tick...Tick...BOOM!," plenty of folks are making their way through Garfield's non-"Spider-Man" filmography, which includes the messy and polarizing neo-noir film, 2018's "Under the Silver Lake." The follow-up film from "It Follows" director David Robert Mitchell, "Under the Silver Lake" follows a guy named Sam (Garfield) who meets and immediately becomes infatuated with his neighbor Sarah (Riley Keough) after spending one evening together. The duo make plans to hang out the following day, but Sam awakens to discover Sarah and her roommates have mysteriously moved out and all traces of them disappeared. Already obsessed with conspiracy theories and symbolism, Sam becomes hellbent on figuring out what happened to Sarah, finding what he believes to be hidden symbols all over Los Angeles.

While the film was not a huge hit, "Under the Silver Lake" has birthed a cult following who are convinced that there are hidden meta-clues, codes, and ciphers sprinkled throughout the film, not unlike the people behind the documentary "Room 237." Attempting to unpack ALL of the imagery and symbolism hidden throughout the film would be a fool's errand, but chances are if you're reading this article, that's exactly the kind of help you're looking for. Allow me to serve as your humble servant as we travel around, through, and under ... the Silver Lake. I'm sorry, I had to.

The Chance Meeting of Sam and Sarah

Okay, so, Sam is your basic grimy softboi obsessed with Kurt Cobain and with hygiene habits that rival all of those celebrities who bragged about never bathing their kids. He's not a likable dude, but somehow manages to pull off a meetcute with Sarah, the effortlessly cool L.A. version of a manic pixie dream girl. After Sarah and her roommates disappear, they leave behind some odd graffiti and a handful of belongings in a shoebox that Sam later sees removed by a group of hot women. The rest of the film is dedicated to Sam's attempt to track down Sarah, navigating a web of mystery, strange interactions, elite Hollywood parties, secret messages in music, hidden tunnels, comic book conspiracy theories, burning millionaires, a possible serial killer, and hidden clues on cereal boxes.

Sam eventually cracks the code and tracks down Sarah, who as it turns out, is a willing participant in an underground bunker to be one of three wives of a billionaire in order for all of their souls to eventually "ascend." He was right to question the secret messages and try to decipher hidden codes he knew existed, but at the end of the day, Sarah has chosen to stay hidden away in a secret bunker with an old millionaire and her roommates.

How Does It End and What Does It Mean?

Distraught, albeit accepting of Sarah's decision, Sam returns home and winds up spending an evening with his neighbor and watches as his landlord attempts to evict him, and notices a strange symbol on his wall, the same one left as graffiti on Sarah's apartment. It means "stay quiet," a warning left for Sam, who now appears to know too much. Over the course of Sam's journey, he's told constantly that "it's not that deep," but by confirming his paranoia, we know that sometimes it is that deep. The symbols and secret messages were very real, but the outcome was no mystery at all. There's a quote from author David Levithan in his book "The Realm of Possibility" that encapsulates "Under the Silverlake":

Getting what you want is just as difficult as not getting what you want. Because then you have to figure out what to do with it instead of figuring out what to do without it.

The difficulty may appear to be Sam's attempt to solve the puzzle, but the reality is that the truth to Sarah's disappearance wasn't the hard part. The hard part is Sam returning back to his normal, unwashed, unpaid life, and figuring out how to move forward. He spent so much time trying to see deeper and further, that he wasn't able to see what was directly in front of him all along. Sam's life isn't going to get better because some cute girl swoops in and saves him, it'll get better when he puts in the conscious effort to apply himself. Sam, it's time to get your s*** together.