Shirley Movie Ending Explained In Short

Shirley is a 2020 drama directed by Josephine Decker. The movie is based on the writer Shirley Jackson in the time she was working on her book Hangsaman. Elisabeth Moss simply steals the show in this one as she embraces her character, both body and soul. The supporting cast includes Odessa Young, Michael Stuhlbarg and Logan Lerman, to name a few. It is a slow-paced film with excellent production value. This article will address only the ending and not the entire story, so here’s the Shirley movie ending explained; spoiler ahead.

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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 answerYou can find other film explanations using the search option on top of the site.

Is Shirley based on a true story?

Yes and no. The story is based on the real-world characters of the horror/mystery writer Shirley Jackson and her husband, Stanley and the relationship they shared. However, this is not really a biography as the events in the film are fictitious and not how things transpired when Shirley Jackson wrote her novel.

Shirley Movie Ending: Did Rose Die?

The ending of the movie Shirley reveals that the lead character, Paula, of Shirley’s book Hangsaman is based on Rose. While Paula survives in the book, Rose dies by jumping off the cliff.

Now how do we know for sure that Rose did jump off? Well, it is an open ending so we can only speculate, and here’s how…

If you read the actual Hangsaman book written by the real Shirley Jackson, you’ll notice that the character referred to as Paula is Natalie in the novel. In the book’s final scene, Natalie considers committing suicide but decides against it and goes back into the world as a stronger person.

In the movie Shirley, we are shown a scene in the end where Rose appears to be back with Fred, but this woman is stronger. She says, “No no no, I’m not going back to that. Little wifey, little Rosie, that was madness”. This is not Rose; this is Paula in Shirley’s book.

As Shirley stands at the cliff beside Rose, she imagines an ending for her book, where her lead character Paula (Natalie in the actual book) saves herself.

Unfortunately, Rose jumps to her death. This is not shown on screen, but there is a dialogue between Shirley and her husband Stanley when he congratulates her on the masterpiece her book Hangsaman is. Shirley says, “It hurts. This one. It hurts more than the others.”

It hurts because though the character in her book emerges stronger, the person it was based on dies on the rocks, and that’s why for Shirley this book hurts more than the others.

What did you think about the plot and ending of Shirley? What is your theory on what happened in the end? Do drop your thoughts in the comments below.