Bliss is a 2021 psychological thriller directed by Mike Cahill, who has given us mind-bending films like Another Earth and I Origins. The story follows a man with a failed marriage who then gets fired from his job and runs into a mysterious woman who’s trying to tell him his world is only a computer simulation. The cast has Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson in the leading roles. The film raises many questions and is interesting if seen from one perspective. So here’s the plot analysis and the ending of the 2021 movie Bliss explained.
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Oh, and if this article doesn’t answer all of your questions, drop me a comment or an FB chat message, and I’ll get you the answer. You can find other film explanations using the search option on top of the site.
Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:
Bliss Movie: Plot Explained
The primary question on anyone’s mind is which world was real. In my opinion, this film makes a lot more sense if you consider it to be a metaphorical presentation of one person’s drug addiction and his overcoming of it.
The problem with watching Bliss as a science fiction film
Too many plot holes. It’s easy for one to draw parallels to films like The Matrix, Inception or The Thirteenth Floor. The movie Bliss proposes that there is a utopian world and a simulated world called the Brain Box, which is the creation of Dr Isabel. In the BrainBox, one can immerse their minds in a world set in the time of the early 21st century so that they can appreciate Utopia once they exit the BrainBox. The side effect of the BrainBox is that one could lose memories of their lives in Utopia and instead take on the persona and memories from the world inside the BrainBox – basically, what we see happen to Greg. The story and the concept are good up to this point. But beyond that, the movie Bliss gives rise to far too many unanswered questions.
- Why does only Kendo have those yellow and blue pills if he’s just another person taking part in the BrainBox experiment?
- Why does Isabel’s personality go through a change when inside the BrainBox?
- How can projections from inside the BrainBox appear in Utopia?
- Why do people suddenly behave agitated at Isabel’s congratulatory party?
- What is Emily doing in Utopia if she’s not real?
- How did Greg draw a still of Isabel from a moment that has not even taken place?
Let’s try and go through the plot considering the film to be metaphorical and not literal science-fiction.
Who is Greg, and what happened to him?
Greg is a person suffering from severe drug addiction. He is separated from his wife because, in the past, his addiction appears to have wrecked his marriage. He currently lives in a motel. His son, Arthur, is unable to forgive Greg for the pain he’s brought the family. But his daughter, Emily, still loves him and hopes that one day her father will get clean.
Greg is unable to hold on to even a mundane job because his substance abuse makes him constantly drift off and draw pictures of a house he’s dreaming about. Greg loses his job and ends up on the street, homeless.
Greg – The Unreliable Narrator
There is the scene where we see the camera pan away from Greg in his office, then we hear him snorting off-screen. Right after, there is a sense of calm as ambient noises go down, and at this point, we’re shown his wallet flickering. The things that we see in the film are from the perspective of Greg, a drug addict, and it is possible that none of it is actually happening.
Killing the Boss
When Greg gets fired, he unintentionally kills his boss, Bjorn, by standing up. The force of him getting up sends Bjorn flying in the air, landing with his head hitting the table, and dying. Unrealistic, much? Yes, because it probably is not real. Greg only imagines this. Later in the film, we see Bjorn alive and calls security when Greg approaches him. The reason given by Isabel is that Bjorn was rebooted. Sure, like that Deja Vu moment in The Matrix. But, if we choose to follow the metaphorical theme, Bjorn never died, and according to him, Greg is a jobless drug addict that he once fired and could be dangerous and therefore calls security.
Okay, who is Isabel if she’s not Greg’s wife?
Metaphorically, Isabel symbolises addiction; she represents temptation. “You’re my soul mate”, she says. Isabel is Greg’s escape from the harsh reality of his life and represents a deeper level of addiction. If we wanted to answer who Isabel is, literally, she is a homeless drug addict as possibly a streetwalker. As Greg begins hanging out with Isabel, he moves further away from his daughter. Isabel removes all guilt from Greg’s mind for being jobless and distant by giving him a firm sense that his world is unreal.
What are those yellow crystals?
The yellow crystals clearly represent drugs. Once Greg gets on them, he begins to visualise that he has superpowers and can control anybody. If you sidestepped the sci-fi element presented in the movie, all of this is merely Greg tripping on a new drug.
Then, what are the blue crystals?
The blue crystals are even more potent drugs; they represent Greg’s next level of drug abuse. In the initial phase of consuming the blue crystals, Greg finds himself in Utopia. It all makes sense to him even if he can’t remember his life in Utopia. It’s his eternal bliss, and Greg instantly accepts it – a space that he never wants to leave. This so-called “real world” is his convenient escape to a falsified life where Greg is wealthy, happily married to Isabel, and a part-successful inventor.
Why Utopia might only be in Greg’s mind?
The Thought Visualizer is Greg’s invention in this falsified utopian life because he is consistently unable to use the right words to convey his feelings. To his daughter, he keeps saying, “I have so many thoughts I wish you could see“.
Think about Isabel’s ridiculous story explaining how a world filled with poverty and pollution turned into this perfect Utopia.
- Synthetic Biology fixed all the environmental problems. All.
- Asteroid Mining brought mountains of new money. And the guy that had the company for the asteroid mining just started giving all this free money away. Sure.
- The robots began doing all the tedious tasks.
- Greg’s horrible life is a fake one inside Isabel’s experiment.
Sounds too good to be true? That’s probably because it is.
In my books, the whole Utopia story is a convenient lie Greg is telling himself.
How is Utopia getting affected by the BrainBox world?
Simple, Utopia does not exist; it’s all inside Greg’s mind. The reality is that he’s lying somewhere and tripping, tripping real bad. Greg’s love for Emily is the only thing that’s keeping him hinged. Emily’s appearance in a ghostlike form is his memory of her coaxing him back to real life.
How does Greg have superpowers in Utopia?
Again, none of that is happening, he’s just mixing drugs, and they are doing a number on his brain. Eventually, the stock is depleted, and they need to go to procure more.
Does Isabel actually kill Kendo?
It’s hard to say. If you look at it metaphorically, Isabel represents temptation, and Kendo is the supplier persona. I find it unlikely that the murder and the carjacking actually happened because it’s not that easy to get away with it. I believe the murder represents the level of difficulty to procure the blue crystals. However, it is possible that Greg did find himself in the middle of a cop bust and managed to escape. Perhaps it was not something as grave as murder but more of a drug bust where authorities are after suppliers rather than junkies. This incident is Greg’s wake-up call. The beauty of his real life, of what he’s been avoiding, comes flooding to him, and he chooses to embrace reality.
Bliss Movie: Ending Explained: Which world is real?
The ending of the movie Bliss shows us that Greg is able to let go of Isabel, his temptation into the drug world, and embrace life. Greg accepts his drug addiction problem, enrolls himself in a rehab centre, and declares that his daughter is real. This is his first positive step towards his recovery, and over time, he gets clean and reunites with Emily.
While we’re told constantly in the film that Emily does not exist, she is the only element of truth in Greg’s life. Her love for him keeps him tethered, and she is eventually able to turn him around and get him to break free from his addiction. The final scene shows Greg finally keeping his promise of meeting his daughter.
What did you think about the movie Bliss and its ending? Do drop a comment below.
Barry is a technologist who helps start-ups build successful products. His love for movies and production has led him to write his well-received film explanation and analysis articles to help everyone appreciate the films better. He’s regularly available for a chat conversation on his website and consults on storyboarding from time to time.
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