Hippopotamus Ending Explained & Film Analysis

What happened to the heroes of the film Hippopotamus: reality and fiction. The psychological thriller Hippopotamus by Edward A. Palmer tells the story of the kidnapping of the girl Ruby by a maniac possessed by her. The man keeps the victim in a locked room, after injuring her legs, demanding that she truly love him. The plot and meaning of the film Hippopotamus are striking in their ambiguity. The present and the past, truth and fiction, dream and reality are intertwined in it, creating an exciting quest with an unpredictable ending.

What is the movie about

In an empty room with brick walls on a damp floor, the girl comes to her senses. Her head and knees are bandaged, she does not remember anything and, as it turned out, she cannot walk. This is the main character of the film – Ruby. She tries to remember what happened and she can’t. And then a man comes into the room and says: “My name is Thomas Allcraft. I kidnapped you. You will remain a prisoner until you love me.”

The kidnapper then tells the girl that her name is Ruby Watts, she is 25 years old and went to law school. Born in Dorset, mother was a paramedic, father an architect. Ruby is the only child in the family and is still afraid of the dark. Tom puts Ruby’s bag on a chair in the far corner of the room and says he didn’t touch any of it. The man warns the girl that he cut the ligaments in her knees so that she would not move if he wants to keep her legs.

Frame from the film.Frame from the film.

Tom leaves Ruby food on a tray and says he will bring it three times a day. He also gives her painkillers and a birth control pill. The abductor promises to personally carry her to the toilet at her first request and explains the rules: “The lights turn on at 7 am, turn off at 11 pm. Don’t even try to run. We are 10 miles from the nearest settlement.” To Ruby’s question: “Did you hate me?” Tom answers “No” and leaves the room.

After some time, Ruby again sits against the wall, Tom is in front of her, again the same words of the kidnapper and the same desperately uncomprehending look of the girl. It was as if her memory was “rebooted”, and she again forgot everything that happened recently. Tom again says the same text: “Your name is Ruby Watts, you are 25 years old …” Each time the story repeats itself, but new details are always added.

Gradually, Ruby begins to play her part in order to ingratiate herself with the kidnapper. When Tom brings Ruby the book, she suddenly remembers a scene from her past. The man explains that this is her favorite book, the trigger is the link to her lost memory. And any thing can become such a trigger, indiscriminately – a picture, a sound, a feeling, a smell, or a combination of them.

Over dinner, Ruby asks Tom how many other girls he has kidnapped before her. He says that there was no one else, she was the only one with him. And again a new day. Ruby removes the bandages from her knees and realizes that her legs are fine, she can walk. The girl takes a brick out of the wall and sees matches falling out of it. Then comes an explanation of where they came from. Ruby would ask Tom to light a candle every time she ate dinner “for a romantic atmosphere,” and then she would hide the burnt match.


During the next dinner, Tom brings a special dish. After tasting it, Ruby remembers the scene at the restaurant. She is with Tom, they are happy. When asked by the girl what it was, Tom says: “You and I celebrated our anniversary.” Some scenes are mixed up. For example, Ruby, wearing a large brown sweater, walks to the door, trying to escape. But Tom’s voice from behind calls out to her: “It’s cold out there. You will need a coat.” Then the girl is back in a white T-shirt, it’s another day, but the events are repeated.

One day, the girl remembers their graduation dance. Tom then confessed his love to her, said that he would like to live the rest of his life with her, and she reciprocated. What follows is Tom’s story about their shared past. He says that one day, when he came to Ruby’s house, he caught the scene of her being raped by her friend Nick. In a fit of rage, he killed Nick, put an unconscious Ruby in a friend’s car and drove to the coast. Then, by boat, they crossed to the island, where there was an abandoned farm.

According to Tom, when she woke up, Ruby couldn’t remember anything. He convinces her that he is doing everything for her own good. He wants to help her regain her memory and return to normal life. Scenes are shown of Tom trying to help Ruby day after day. She constantly confused the meaning of the words, saying that her memories accumulate in the Hippopotamus, referring to the hypothalamus part of the brain. Hence, apparently, the title of the film.

The Hippopotamus Ending explanation

Toward the end of Hippopotamus, it becomes very clear that Ruby plays along with Tom. He thinks he finally fixed the girl for himself, they even have sex. Immediately afterwards, Ruby attacks Tom with a mirror shard in anger and runs away. When she finds the boat, she faints. The scene then cuts to a hospital room where Ruby is lying on a bed. The doctor informs her that the operation was successful. When the doctor leaves the room, the audience sees that this is Tom, and he stares into the camera.

The point of the Hippopotamus ending is that Tom lied to Ruby from the very beginning and manipulated her to his will. He was simply creating a reputation for being a savior in her mind by forcing fake memories. It’s also possible that he was giving her time to “reboot” her mind. It was possible, because he sincerely believed that in the end, after all that had happened, Ruby would fall in love with him again.

Your version: what really happened to Ruby and Tom?Tom saved Ruby from a rapist and she became mentally damaged.21.88%They were together, but Ruby left Tom. Tom caught her, keeps her locked up, trying to subdue her to his will.40.63%They don’t have a common past. He caught her and drove her crazy with his experiments.37.5%Other (I will write in the comments).0%Voted: 32

The meaning of the film The Hippopotamus

The room symbolizes the perception of reality by each of the people. The closed space is the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, where a person forms new memories and experiences. But they may not be based on reality, hence the hidden meaning of every plot detail. The use of color and mind-manipulation tactics also matter in the film.

Tom uses special lighting to manipulate Ruby’s perception of time and place. He knows enough about psychology and neurology to conduct such an experiment on a living person.

Frame from the film.Stuart Mortimer as Tom. Frame from the film.

The main idea of ​​the authors of the film is to pass off as the truth the subjective point of view that arose in the subconscious of the characters. Present it as objective, confuse angles, push two minds together. The story that follows from the resulting contradictions gives the viewer a lot of room for imagination, different interpretations of the plot.

It is impossible to find out what the real history of the heroes was. There is no clear explanation for this in the story. Perhaps they were a couple since high school, and then broke up, and Tom was left with an obsession with getting the girl back. Maybe he just dreamed about her, watching from a distance, and for years he thought up a plan how to get her, make him love him. The essence of the film is that each version will be correct for a particular viewer. A person simply receives pieces with a description of the plot and puts them together in his own puzzle. This is the peculiarity of the film-puzzle.

Similar films

  • “Room” , USA, 2003. Joy was kidnapped as a child and imprisoned in a small room. Now an adult woman lives in it with her five-year-old son Jack. The child has never seen sunlight and thinks that this room is the whole world.
  • 10 Cloverfield, USA, 2016. After a car accident, Michelle woke up in a dark bunker, chained from her bed. It has other inhabitants who report that life on the surface is no longer possible due to an alien nuclear attack. A film with a tense plot and an unexpected ending.
  • Split” , USA, Japan, 2017. A maniac kidnaps three schoolgirls and keeps them in the basement. He claims that 23 personalities coexist inside him at once, but the most terrible one will soon appear – the 24th, from which the whole world will shudder.
  • Oldboy , South Korea, 2013. A man named Oh Dae-Soo wakes up one day in a cramped cell but has no memory of how he got there. Nobody comes to him, nobody talks to him. This imprisonment lasts for a long 15 years, and then at the end the hero has a chance to find the kidnappers and take revenge on them.
  • “Ghostland” , Canada, France, 2018. Maniacs kidnap two sisters and keep them in a closed house for years. One of the girls created an alternative reality for herself, where she is free, happy and successful.
Add a comment

  1. Bri Richman

    Not to be that person, but the movie is based on the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain used for memory, not the thalamus.

    1. Bri

      Excuse me I meant it’s based on the hippocampus not the hypothalamus.

  2. Jordan

    Ruby does not ask Tom if he hates her. She asks, “did you rape me?”