Detachment Movie Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

The Film Detachment: Difficult Teenagers, Dry Leaves, Rage And Despair. The Meaning Of The Film Detachment, Explanation Of The Ending, Decoding Of The Plot, Main Idea.

Country: USA
Genre: drama
Year of production: 2011
Directed by: Tony Kay
Actors: Adrien Brody, Sami Gale, Christina Hendricks, Marcia Gay Harden, James Caan

The meaning of the film Detachment, released in 2011, is very deep. This American drama clearly depicts the scourge of modern society – the unwillingness of parents to participate in the upbringing of their own children. At first glance, everything in this film lies on the surface, but there is also a hidden meaning. To understand the ending, let’s make a small review and explain the key points and characters of the film Detachment.

What is the movie about

The main idea of ​​the film revolves around the problems of the modern school, education and upbringing of children. The hero is Henry Barth, a young man who lives alone and takes care of his grandfather, who has developed senile dementia. Henry works as a replacement teacher: he temporarily replaces absent teachers at schools. He doesn’t even have to teach the kids. In fact, his duties include only looking after students in the classroom.

a teacher named BartFrame from the film.

Henry’s next offer is to work for a month as an English language and literature teacher at a school where children from disadvantaged families study. The morals in this educational institution are appropriate. Parents have long spat on their children, shifting the care of them to teachers. Despite the contingent, the rights of the child are put at the forefront, so teachers can do nothing with difficult teenagers.

Children are rude to teachers, threaten and disregard everything, quite rightly believing that they can get away with everything. Indirectly, parents also add fuel to the fire, blaming teachers for everything, and at the slightest problem threaten teachers with legal proceedings.

Despite this, Bart manages to find a common language with his class, although initially the teenagers met him quite aggressively. From the first day at school, Henry clearly states his position: only those who need it are in his lessons. The rest may not come. He is against insulting other students, so he immediately kicks out one of the boorish wards from the lesson. At the same time, he lowers the rudeness of the other student towards himself, having managed to smooth out the conflict.

Bart almost immediately establishes psychological contact with one of the students – Meredith. This is a plump girl in the back row, who does not have relationships with classmates and parents. One day, returning home, Henry meets a young prostitute Erica and, on a sudden inspiration, decides to invite her to his place to try to save the streets from the dirt.

The ending of the film Detachment is ambiguous. Having warmed Erica, Henry actually hands her over to the guardianship authorities, and the girl goes to a shelter. Meredith tries to talk to Bart, because he is the only one, in her opinion, who understands and sees her real. However, the teacher, who accidentally enters, interprets this conversation incorrectly. This becomes the last straw, and Meredith takes her own life in the school yard.

Henry’s grandfather dies in the clinic, burying the protagonist’s past with him. At the end of the film, Henry holds a final lesson with his temporary classes, and one of the most outrageous students says that he is sorry to part with such a teacher, who stands out sharply from other teachers who, although they are on a permanent staff, treat work formally. .

At first glance, everything is obvious here. Social drama on the topic of interpersonal relationships. However, to understand the meaning of this picture, you need to make a full analysis of the key points.

Plot transcript

There are no Easter eggs in Detachment, which directors often leave for the audience. Therefore, the general meaning of the picture does not require further explanation. This is the story of a teacher, actually a random person who, to the best of his ability, is trying to make the world a better place. Here, other characters are of greater interest, who very organically complement the picture of this far from ideal world of the American school.

First shots

This is a kind of collage of teachers talking about their lives and how they got into the profession. It turns out that for the most part these are random people who just lingered in a convenient place.

Henry Bart also flashes here, who agrees to tell his story after the door is closed. He doesn’t want a moment of his life to be available to anyone else. It follows that further events in the film are his memories. He tells this story without embellishment, reflecting the depressing reality.

crumbling tree

The film has graphic inserts in the form of drawings on the school board. At first, it is a growing tree, from which leaves quickly crumble. Then the tree is transformed into a book with a quote from Camus on the theme of complete alienation.

It is difficult to say what exactly the director wanted to say by showing a crumbling tree, but the first association that suggests itself is an analogy with a teacher and students. The teacher is the trunk of the tree, which allows the leaf students to be saturated with knowledge. Later, the pupils crumble, and many of them simply dry out.

This includes the ending, when Bart sits in an empty classroom, on the floor of which dry leaves are scattered mixed with pages of books.

Bart's grandfather dies in hospitalFrame from the film.

What happened to the hero’s mother

Here, too, everything is obvious – she died by swallowing pills when the main character was 7 years old. The plot of the film Detachment intersects with Bart’s childhood memories, where he was happy with his mother. He does not remember his father, they lived all their lives with their grandfather.

The reasons why Henry’s mother committed suicide are not stated in the film. However, references to incest indirectly slip through. It is possible that the father (Henry’s grandfather) molested his daughter. This is also indicated by the fact that the woman asked the boy to close the door at night.

Before his death, being in a semi-delirious state, the old man repented of his deed, and asked his daughter for forgiveness, although he did not remember the details. However, my grandfather was happy when Henry came to visit him, and he even said that if the visits stopped, he would die.


This is a teenager with a serious psychological trauma that does not fit into the overall picture of the class. She is a white crow, who, unlike many, has a serious hobby – photography and drawings. However, the girl’s father is against all kinds of arts, and is clearly not going to support her daughter in her endeavors. For obvious reasons, relations with classmates do not add up.

Bart becomes the only bright person in Meredith’s life. She gives him her work, and tries to talk heart to heart. The teacher listens to her, but tries to keep a social distance. When another teacher enters the class, Meredith runs away in tears. The next day, she poisons herself with pills.

Bart and his student MeredithFrame from the film.

The reason here is not that Henry was suspected of sexual harassment – Meredith did not know about this. She just realized that she could not get warmth and support from Bart. He distances himself from her, and the only light ray goes out. As a result, life loses all meaning.


Bart meets her by chance on the bus and, meeting her the next day, invites her over for a bite to eat. He allows the girl to stay overnight and then live in his apartment for a while. You can clearly see how Erica is changing right before our eyes. She again learns to trust people and understands that others need her not only as a prostitute.

Bart and street hooker EricaFrame from the film.

She tries to repay Bart with care: she cooks breakfast and dinner, cleans the apartment, looks after her grandfather. However, Henry is too correct. He convinces himself that he cannot give the girl anything, so he simply hands her over to social workers. Erica begs her not to give her away, but she is taken to an orphanage.

In fact, after giving her some warmth, Bart pushes her back into the dirt. It is quite obvious that after the orphanage, Erika will again start earning money on the street.

Detachment The meaning of the ending

The end of the movie Detachment shows several important points at once. The first of these is that with a little involvement, the temporary teacher wins the favor of the class, and even difficult teenagers find it difficult to leave him. Other teachers treat work at school formally: they just work off their hours, enduring ridicule from students and claims from parents. Important fact: one of the most zealous troublemakers in the class calls Henry “You”. This is a small but significant victory.

Meredith dies even though Henry could help her. To her personally, just by talking. However, he does not. Ironically, he and Meredith had their last day at this school. The protagonist’s grandfather also dies, taking his past with him.

Bart picks up Erica from the shelterFrame from the film.

Perhaps it was Meredith’s death that prompted Henry to think that he had done wrong towards Erica. Therefore, he arrives at the shelter, where the girl happily throws herself on his neck. Here we can assume that behind the scenes remains the registration of custody of Erica. I would like to believe that Bart will not let the girl turn into another fallen and withered leaf, but will help her grow into a full-fledged tree.

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  1. someone named Trisha

    This is the most straightforward review I’ve encountered in my life so far. For once, I understand it.