Cowgirl is a 2020 psychological thriller film directed by Jeff Baena. The plot centers on a somewhat autistic female outsider who struggles to distinguish her dreams from reality. Starring Alison Brie, who also co-wrote the film. Molly Shannon and Debbie Ryan play supporting roles. The film combines motifs from such films as “Refuge” and “Destiny”. Here is a detailed analysis of the plot and ending of the movie.
Horse Girl is a story about a girl who has survived mental illness, alien abduction and time travel. Most opinions about this story agree that the heroine is simply mentally ill. But director Jeff Baena mentioned that he used both themes in the film. By the way, for the lead actress (and part-time co-writer) Alison Brie, this film is pretty autobiographical: her grandmother had schizophrenia. The director also said that he himself saw a UFO. Now we can go through the story, linking the events, and talk about the non-linear order of Sarah’s life.
What happened to Sarah’s grandmother in The Rider?
Sarah’s grandmother claimed she was from the future. She was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, released prematurely, and died on the street. It is likely that Sarah is a person who goes back in time to become a woman who claimed to be from the future, that is, her own grandmother.
What happened to Sarah’s mother?
She suffered from depression. It is not mentioned how she fought, but she kills herself by overdosing on sleeping pills. Sara finds her dead in the shower. This is the reason why the sound of running water causes Sarah to lose her composure.
Horse Girl: What’s going on with Sarah?
Sarah suffers from mental health problems. She has problems with sleepwalking, nosebleeds, and wasted time. An example of her sleepwalking is when her roommate’s boyfriend finds Sarah standing in the lobby in the middle of the night. She wakes up when he calls her. An example of Sarah’s loss in time is when she hears the sound of water from the water tanks, leaves the car and goes home. Also, Sarah survives an alien abduction. Viewers immediately dismiss her theory about aliens and perceive it as the madness of the main character. But the filmmakers have stated that they wanted to experiment with both themes in this film.
Who is Joan? Who does Joan see with the horse?
Joan is a woman who works at the store with Sarah and empathizes with her. Joan also plays a very important role in explaining The Rider. Her image is proof that everything that happens to Sarah actually happens to her. While most of the film is from Sarah’s point of view, one critical scene is from Joan’s point of view. This is the first scene where Joan sees a woman walking by with a horse while she is talking to Sarah in the store. It is eventually revealed that the lady she happens to meet is another Sarah. This scene, as emphasized by the director, is proof that there are elements of science fiction in this film.
What is DNANU?
DNANU is a company that requests human saliva samples to determine its origin. On Sarah’s birthday, Joan gives her a DNANU test kit.
Why is Sara obsessed with her horse?
She loves her horse very much, Willow. Sarah doesn’t train anymore after her friend gets injured and loses her mind. But she frequents the ranch and tries to mentor the girl who is currently learning to drive. Sarah sincerely cares about this girl, but it seems strange.
Also, the girl is obsessed with the series “Purgatory” (the modern analogue of “The X-Files”) and loves the main character Darren. It is because of the series in the girl’s head that crazy ideas and temporary holes and losses in time appear. But the existence of her boyfriend, Darren, is in question. On a date with Daren, she had a fit of insanity when the girl first told that she was being abducted by aliens, and then offered to dig up her mother’s grave and conduct a DNA analysis.
Dream or reality
Sarah often has dreams about alien abductions. But one day she finds scratches on the wall of the room that she could not do herself. This suggests that this is not a dream. One of the heroes of her dream is a male plumber, whom she sees one day in reality. After meeting him, Sarah realizes that he does not know her.
What happened between 23:02 and 23:04?
One night, Sarah goes to bed at 11:02. Afterwards, she survives her abduction and finds herself near a payphone. Back at home and back in her bed, Sarah sees that the time is 11:04. It’s only been 2 minutes. This is one of the first time jumps Sarah is shown to us.
Why did Sarah end up naked in the store?
Most likely, she did not teleport, but lost her composure in the shower. Because she forgot to dress and came to work in the nude. Joan referred her to a psychiatric clinic.
Did she really run away from a psychiatric clinic?
In the hospital, the girl went out the window, returned home and saw there, instead of a neighbor, the girl from her dreams. After stealing fabric from the store, she sews a hazmat suit for herself and the horse and heads for Darren. But the problem is that escaping from the clinic is unrealistic. In addition, at the beginning of the vision, we see Sarah watching herself from the side. Waking up after a vision, Sarah finds herself in bed with a girl who seems to have such dreams and also experienced alien abductions.
Is Sarah really time travelling?
Sarah definitely experiences time jumps. We see a scene where Joan is looking at Sarah walking on a horse while another Sarah is standing next to her. Director Jeff confirmed that it is “Sarah” that Joan is looking at with the horse and not someone else.
Why can’t Sarah remember her time in the hospital correctly?
This part will be a bit difficult to explain. Sarah is hospitalized twice. The second time after she appears naked in the store. And the first time for a reason not revealed in the film. The important point is that from Sarah’s point of view, both her visits to the hospital are mixed as one event, but for the hospital they are two different events. Mixing?
Let’s assume that Sarah arrives naked at the store on June 15th. Afterwards, Joan admits her to the hospital. Social worker Ethan mentions that Sarah has already been there once. Sarah cannot remember this because for her, this event has not happened yet. Sarah tells Ethan about her clone theory.
At the hospital, Sarah goes through a series of hallucinations, eventually returning on May 15th. We do not know the events of May 15, but she ends up in the hospital. After spending two days there, on May 17 she talks to Ethan. When Sarah meets Ethan, he cannot find any mention of her clone theory in his notes. That’s because it’s May 17th, the conversation about her being a clone took place on June 15th. While June 15 has already happened for Sarah (because she’s been time traveling), for Ethan it’s still a month away.
Thus, Ethan experiences time linearly, just like any other person. So, he meets Sara for the first time from May 15 to May 17. Afterwards, Ethan meets Sarah again on June 15 when she tells him that she is a clone. For Sarah, it’s just the opposite. She first met Ethan on June 15, where she cannot remember any previous encounters with him. After that, on May 17, she talks to him for the last time when she says that she is not a clone.
What really happened?
In the ending of Horse Girl, Sarah realizes that she is traveling through time. The real reason she looks so much like her grandmother is because she is her own grandmother. She tells Ethan that she knows what she needs to do – go and be her grandmother! She goes home, changes into her grandmother’s dress, and steals Willow. Remember that Sarah, walking the horse, traveled through time.
Meaning of the final scene
In the final scene, Sarah releases her horse into the forest, here the girl is illuminated by a spaceship. She is sent back in time many decades ago. In the past, her name was Helen. She will marry and have a daughter. Years later, this daughter would have a daughter of her own, who would be Sarah. And so Sarah is her own grandmother. This explains why Sarah’s grandmother thought she was from the future. Thus, Sarah travels through time and the photo in the orange dress shows her, not her grandmother Helen. We cannot understand how this time loop works, but the result of the DNA tests did not come to Sarah because she is the ancestor of herself.