Red Lights Review: What Does the Ending of Mean?

Red Lights (2012): the meaning of the ending and the whole film, plot summary explanation, similar filmes: transcript of the final scene.

Country: Spain, Canada

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Year of production: 2012

Directed by: Rodrigo Cortes

Actors: Cillian Murphy, Robert De Niro, Sigourney Weaver, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones

tagline: “You only see what you want to believe”

Red Lights is a mystical thriller by Rodrigo Cortes, released in 2012. It attracts attention with an interesting plot and a strong cast. The ending of the film “Red Lights” left the audience with questions. A detailed analysis of the finale and the entire plot of the picture will make it possible to understand the director’s intention and the ideas that he wanted to convey to the audience.

What is the movie about

The first minutes of the film “Red Lights” introduce us to the psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant physicist Tom Buckley. They are engaged in the study of paranormal phenomena and the exposure of charlatans.

Matheson and Buckley arrive at the Sidgwick home, where mysterious knocking is heard regularly. They meet Tracy Northrop, who claims that an entity lives in the building. To prove this, she holds a séance, during which a knock is heard, and also levitates the table at which those present are sitting. After the show ends, Matheson talks to the Sidgwicks’ daughter. The girl admits that she and her sister scare her parents because they do not want to live in a new house and promises not to do this again. Margaret advises Sidgwick to fire Tracy.

Robert DeNiroRobert De Niro as Simon Silver. Frame from the film.

At the same time, according to the plot of the thriller “Red Lights”, the famous psychic Simon Silver returns. He left the scene over 30 years ago due to the scandal surrounding the death of his critic. The death of the man was explained by natural causes, but Silver could not get rid of suspicions, so he stopped his activities.

Matheson lectures students about the table trick performed by Tracy Northrup. One of the students, Sally Owen, asks if she really believes that all paranormal phenomena are fakes. Matheson replies that they are not, but they almost always have a logical explanation. Then she says that in 30 years of work, she has never encountered a miracle that would not have a clue.

Tom works and listens to the news about Silver. Sally Owen enters the room and asks her to hand over her work to Dr. Matheson. In the next scene in Red Lights, they are sitting in a cafe where Buckley is performing coin and pen tricks on a girl. He explains that the simpler the trick, the better, and the viewer is deceived because he is looking in the wrong direction. Sally wonders why he’s exposing himself. Tom replies that his mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer. The disease did not respond to treatment because she turned to the doctors late, believing the clairvoyant that she had ordinary gastritis. The news reports that Silver will perform in their city. The announcement interests Tom.

Margaret Matheson pours tea at home. The phone rings. The woman picks up the phone, but there is no answer. Taking the mug in her hand, she sees that the spoon in it is unnaturally curved.

Matheson and Buckley are talking in the car. From the content of Margaret’s monologue, it follows that if she worked herself, she would have ceased her activities long ago. She wonders why Tom is helping her, because he could make a good career. Buckley replies that he loves what he does and then offers to expand their team, alluding to Sally Owen. Matheson says that the girl is too young, but gives in to the request. She then asks Tom to take her to her son David, who has been in a coma for many years. The woman says that if she believed in the afterlife, she would have turned off the life support device long ago and would have let him die.

Sigourney WeaverSigourney Weaver played the role of Margaret Matheson. Frame from the film.

Before psychic Leonardo Palladino’s performance, Matheson and Sally are sitting in a car. The girl asks what they are doing. Margaret replies that they are looking for “red lights” – inconsistencies, something that should not be here. The meaning of her words is that they look out for psychic assistants in the crowd. Buckley, allegedly accidentally colliding with one of them, pulls out a notebook from him with a list of “patients” that Leonardo will heal. It ends with the exposure of the psychic in full view of the public and subsequent arrest.

Buckley offers Matheson to expose Silver, but the woman refuses and only agrees to take part in a television program dedicated to him. Margaret explains to Tom that she had an experience with Silver, during which a psychic used information against her about her son who was in a coma. The woman says that Silver is very dangerous, so she will not deal with him and forbids Tom from doing this.

Buckley disobeys and during the session, Silvera comes into the building. His equipment fails, windows and lamps burst in the building and injure him. He returns to Matheson and finds her lying unconscious. Margaret is taken to the hospital, but she dies. Strange events begin to happen around Tom: birds crash on windows, appliances and lighting lamps explode, glass in the room breaks.

The institute where Buckley works invites Silver to test his abilities. The psychic agrees. Tom goes on a series of experiments as an observer. Before the start, Silver asks to be careful with his watch with a hinged cover and not touch the hands.

Based on the test results, the commission concludes that Silver has abilities. The psychic himself announces that he is planning a series of final performances, after which he will finally leave the stage.

Red Lights Ending explanation

At the end of the film “Red Lights”, Tom tries to understand from the videos of experiments how Silver is deceiving the public. Time is short: on this day, the commission must publish a description of the studies and their results. Silver’s last concert is scheduled for the evening. Buckley leaves student Ben to study the notes while he leaves. Sally comes to Ben’s aid.

Tom anonymously comes to Silver’s appointment. A blind psychic talks to him, believing that he is a patient, and Buckley watches as the man walks around the room, opens the safe, picks up things. Silver probably understands who is in front of him: this is how his statement can be explained, according to which, before studying another person, you need to carefully examine yourself, because otherwise you cannot be sure that the working tools are set up correctly. The psychic says goodbye, but promises that they will meet again.

Buckley goes to Silver’s performance. He is noticed by Simon’s assistants and one of the guards beats up Tom during a break.

Ben and Sally watch as Silver guesses the number the other person is thinking. They notice that the clocks of both men are synchronized and are ticking second by second, and unravel the meaning of what is happening. The dial is divided into ten sections, each of which corresponds to a specific figure. When a man presses the button, giving a signal that he is thinking about some number, Silver, knowing which section the arrow is in, understands what this number is. However, the students are embarrassed that the psychic does not touch the clock hand to find out which section it is in.

Sally recalls Tom’s saying that the simpler the trick, the better, and Dr. Matheson’s explanation that important data is often treated casually or taken for granted and not double-checked. Sally and Ben realize that Silver is not blind and he is a charlatan.

television workFrame from the film.

Tom Buckley returns to the audience and interrupts the performance. He says that he can no longer ignore and deny himself, because you cannot live in denial forever and that everything will be over for him and Silver today. The psychic calls Tom a fool and claims that he won’t do anything to him. Their dialogue is interrupted by a man who says that he is tired of holding his arm outstretched and wants to sit down, but cannot without permission. Tom invites him not to believe everything they say and to do what he wants. After hesitating, the man lowers his hand and sits down.

An argument begins between Buckley and Silver, during which the psychic threatens the scientist, but he replies that if Silver could do something, he would have done it long ago. In the hall, lighting lamps begin to explode, the walls and ceiling tremble and shake, people panic. When it’s all over, Silver asks Tom how he did it. In response, Tom throws him a coin, and the psychic automatically catches it. The hidden meaning of this scene is that Silver is not blind at all. Tom calls him a charlatan and leaves.

The meaning of the ending of the film “Red Lights” is that Tom Buckley turned out to have real psychic abilities. He demonstrates them in the scene of exposing Silver.

At the end of the picture, Tom turns to Dr. Matheson and explains that he denied himself and his abilities all his life. He worked with her because he wanted to meet someone like himself and find answers to questions that interested him. All the events that took place in the film “Red Lights” – equipment failure, dead birds and others – are the work of his hands.

He denied it, just as he did not accept himself all his life, but it is impossible to do this forever, so Tom found the strength to accept it. Buckley says that he will never forgive himself for not revealing his secret to Margaret and not allowing her to believe in the existence of miracles. He promises to do what she couldn’t, and at the hospital he takes David off life support, allowing him to die.

Cillian MurphyTom Buckley is played by Cillian Murphy. Frame from the film.

The meaning of the film Red Lights

Explanation of the ending of the thriller “Red Lights” fully reveals the essence of the film. Tom Buckley turns out to be a man with psychic powers. He denied his powers and worked with Margaret to meet people like him, but nothing worked. His last hope was Simon Silver, but he turned out to be a charlatan. When Tom realizes this at the end of the movie, he accepts himself and probably doesn’t see the point in looking any further.

The hidden meaning of the thriller “Red Lights” is that you should not blindly trust psychics, clairvoyants and other people with supernatural abilities. Instead of benefit, they can cause harm, because there are many charlatans among them. Buckley talks about her mother, who was diagnosed with cancer: the woman turned to the doctors late because she trusted the clairvoyant, who said that this was an exacerbation of gastritis. Stories like this happen often in real life. This happens because society for the most part wants to believe in otherworldly forces and allows itself to be fooled by scammers. The film’s slogan also speaks of this: “You only see what you want to believe.”

Another interpretation of the film says that this is a picture of self-deception and denial of oneself and what is happening around. This is what Tom Buckley does. He does not accept himself and his skills and is looking for other people with the same abilities, in order to recognize himself with the recognition of their existence. To do this, he gets a job with Margaret Matheson. As a result, he does not find other psychics, but he ceases to live in discord with himself and deny his powers.

Margaret Matheson herself is also busy with self-deception. She convinces herself that she can only let her son go if she knows that the afterlife exists. Probably, the real reason for her actions is different, and the woman does not want to admit this to herself: she cannot accept what is happening and part with her son, because she secretly hopes that he will come out of a coma. To find evidence of the existence of miracles, she is studying psychics and people with supernatural abilities, but in 30 years she has not found any and has not stopped deceiving herself. At the same time, one of them was there for a long time.

Elizabeth OlsenElizabeth Olsen starred as Sally Owen. Frame from the film.

Similar films

  • Prestige (UK, USA, 2006). Magician-illusionists Alfred and Robert were friends in the past, but professional rivalry develops into an irreconcilable enmity.
  • “Psychic” (UK, 2011). At a boarding school, children are frightened by a ghost. Writer Florence Cathcart is sent to find out who is behind this and expose the scammer.
  • “Illusion of deception” (USA, France, 2013). A team of well-known magicians-illusionists perform bank robberies during their performances.
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