Wonder of the World

Smile Ending Explained (In Detail)


  • The ending of “Smile” showcases the destructive power of grief and trauma, leaving viewers disappointed as Rose’s situation worsens and she becomes trapped in her own mind.
  • The film’s central entity, represented by a smile, serves as a metaphor for emotional pain and the often-inescapable nature of trauma, driving home poignant messages about suffering and its effects.
  • “Smile” serves as an allegory of trauma and mental health, highlighting the pressure to conceal struggles with fake happiness and the loss of control over one’s mind, ultimately leading to devastating consequences. The film explores the repercussions of handling trauma in unhealthy ways and emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and addressing mental health.



The Smile ending explained that grief and trauma could destroy anyone’s life. Written and directed by Parker Finn and based on his short film Laura Hasn’t Slept, Smile centers on Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon), a therapist who begins experiencing hallucinations after witnessing a patient take her own life. The patient, Laura (Caitlin Stacey), saw her professor die by suicide, after which she became the target of a presence with a sinister smile. By the end of the movie, anyone who wanted to see Rose make it out safely ended up sadly disappointed.

Smile also does something unique with the horrific entity, as it leaves the audience curious and wondering if there is any way to stop it. Similar to movies like The Ring or It Follows, the figure could almost be seen as fate itself, and that is scary enough as it just continues to move on from victim to victim. However, this is more than a movie with a scary ghost girl, as this is a psychological drama about how trauma and grief can destroy a person from within until all hope is gone. That is why the Smile ending explained that things don’t always work out, an idea sticking with viewers long after the last scene played out.

RELATED: Smile, Terrifier, & 10 Movie Series That Could Be The Next Big Horror Franchise

The Curse In Smile Explained

The Smile movie explained the effects of trauma through a horror lens, featuring intricate and tragic themes that add real layers to the meaning of the movie. Following Laura’s death, Rose starts experiencing visions of her own and begins seeing the smile-themed creature. This strains her relationships with her sister and her fiancé, Trevor (The Boys‘ Jessie T. Usher), upending her life and giving her a countdown to her seemingly inevitable demise. Looking for answers, the movie sees Rose seek the help of her police officer ex, Joel (Kyle Gallner).

Together, they discover that Smile-related cases can be traced back to multiple people, none of whom lived more than a week after watching another person die by suicide. Rose realizes the deaths are actually part of a curse, with each person dying in front of a witness and passing the affliction to them. Later in Smile, Joel and Rose eventually come across a prisoner named Robert Talley (Rob Morgan), who reveals that the entity pursuing Rose feeds on trauma. Her situation continues to worsen after that until she is forced to confront the creature on her own.

The film puts an equal amount of focus on psychological twists. Smile puts Rose’s terrifying experiences into question as her life falls apart. Such structure allows the movie to deliver consistent misdirections, which aid in constructing its unnerving narrative. Smile’s central creature isn’t only meant to frighten, but is a metaphor for emotional pain, delivering poignant messages about the often-inescapable nature of trauma, exemplified by the fate of Rose, as the Smile ending explained. All of this makes the movie a complicated story to unpack, both due to its mental-health subtexts and unexpected closing scenes. Smile has been likened to The Ring, but it offers a very different perspective.

What Happens In The Smile Ending?

The Smile movie explained the entity needs another person to witness her death to carry on its curse, Rose secludes herself in her childhood home. There, the entity takes the form of her mother, revealing that, after overdosing, she asked a then 10-year-old Rose to call for help. Rose declined and her mother died. Rose forgives herself at that moment, but that doesn’t deter the creature, which transforms into a monstrous version of Rose’s mother. She sets the creature on fire and runs out of the house. With the curse seemingly over, she visits Joel in the Smile ending to apologize for pushing him out of her life.

In what could be considered one of Smile‘s best reveals, however, Joel turns out to be the creature in disguise, revealing that Rose never actually left the house and is instead trapped in her own mind. In the real world, Joel arrives at Rose’s childhood home, and when he enters, she turns around with an evil grin on her face. She then takes her own life in front of Joel, effectively passing the curse on to him. The Smile ending closes as the camera focuses on Rose’s death being reflected in Joel’s terrified eye, showing that her fate will continue to happen to other people.

Why Was The Entity Represented By A Smile?

The connective thread between all the victims in Smile is the sinister grin they exhibit before their deaths. This is tied to the entity feeding on trauma. As explained by another one of the Smile movie’s main characters, Rose’s therapist, Dr. Madeline Northcott (Robin Weigert), trauma is manageable but doesn’t fully go away. Smile serves as an allegory of emotional suffering being masked by fabricated displays of happiness and optimism. The victims commit horrific acts with forced smiles on their faces. Their unnerving expression is the entity’s twisted way of mocking human response to psychological suffering, and possibly done to further traumatize its victims.

Smile Is An Allegory Of Trauma And Mental Health

The Smile movie explained the metaphor for a person’s control over their mind in response to trauma, and the pressure people feel to cover up their struggles with fake happiness. As the creature makes it clear to Rose during the Smile ending, she is a prisoner of her own mind. That’s shown throughout the film as she gradually loses her grip on reality, and those close to her attempt to distance themselves from her. It’s further evidenced by the fact that, over the course of Smile‘s story, the entity seemingly never physically attacks Rose. Instead, it’s the various visions it gives her that lead her to hurt herself.

Even in a scene in which the creature takes the form of Rose’s therapist and attacks her, it’s left ambiguous whether it actually happened, or if she hallucinated it. The film heavily hints at Rose’s predicaments occurring only as a result of something she herself did (due to the entity’s hold over her), shown by her experiencing horrific visions in one place and coming to seemingly hours later in another. Much like all the other Smile movie victims, Rose slowly lost authority over her mind and body, becoming increasingly dangerous to both herself and those around her until the moment of her death.

The victims of the Smile creature lacking complete control over themselves may also explain why they died in no less than a week after being cursed. Though the semi-specific time frame isn’t truly explained, it may be connected to the film’s emphasis on the importance of mental health, as the victims losing their psychological stability quickly deteriorated their overall well-being, ultimately leading to their deaths. In this, the movie can be seen to reflect how mental health issues are often disregarded as less severe than physical health issues, and can sometimes be unfairly treated as a result. This ties into the way the Smile movie explores psychological trauma.

Smile‘s central creature is powered by it, and its curse’s method of transmission hides a poignant message about the effects of emotional suffering. The Smile curse is quite literally trauma being passed on from one emotionally hurt person to another, as something many victims have in common is witnessing a loved one die. The Smile film depicts emotional distress as a lethal virus, similar in nature to the entity in 2015’s It Follows, with individuals transmitting it in one of two ways.

On one hand, there are those who pass it on without realizing it – those who are completely possessed by the entity and are forced to take their own lives in front of a prospective carrier. Then, there are those who knowingly inflict their pain on others in a fruitless effort to rid themselves of their predicament, such as Robert Talley, who murdered someone else in order to free himself from the curse. As such, Smile‘s horror entity could be interpreted as the pain and sorrow brought on by handling trauma in unhealthy ways – with the smile itself then being an emblem of this.

Can There Be A Smile Sequel?

It’s customary for profitable horror films to get sequels, and that is now a likely prospect for Smile due to the movie’s box-office success. The Smile ending explained that the entity continues its insidious crusade, specifically through Joel. Thus, the movie’s mythology is well-suited for a continuation. No official sequel plans have been announced, but if Smile 2 does happen, it may not necessarily directly follow the ending of the original. As writer-director Parker Finn explained to Polygon:

“I wanted the movie to really exist for its own sake. I wanted to tell this character’s story. That was what was really important to me. I think there’s a lot of fun to be had in the world of Smile. But certainly, as a filmmaker, I never want to retread anything I’ve already done. So, if there was ever to be more of Smile, I’d want to make sure it was something unexpected, and different than what Smile is.”

Even if a sequel doesn’t take the follow-up approach by continuing from the Smile ending with Joel, there’s still potential for a unique horror movie franchise. Smile presents a fascinating and terrifying concept, and continuing its mythology could allow the property to become a unique horror franchise. The curse is an ever-present issue that could be found anywhere at any point in time, which perfectly positions this world for future chapters.

How Sosie Bacon Explains The Smile Ending

Sosie Bacon knew going into Smile that she would not be the Final Girl, as the Smile movie ending explained that there were no happy endings in this story. She even said she was glad the movie didn’t have a happy ending (via THR). When talking about Rose’s final decision being death by suicide or killing someone else to survive, she admitted that she doesn’t personally like to think about it. However, she points out that the Smile movie explained that Rose would not have been happy if she killed anyone.

“It’s just so sad for her. She went into the house knowing that she would either get eaten by the monster or that she would burn the house down, if she could. But at least she wasn’t going to pass [the curse] on, which was the idea. So that was her value, and I was more sad for her that she didn’t get either of those things. But I think I would’ve been more bummed out if this movie had a happy ending.”

The Smile Ending Makes It Special

The Smile ending explained that trauma can really define a person, and the way this movie ended really helped elevate it from a basic horror film into something special with a message behind its scares. Having a surprise twist ending is a staple of horror movies, but it doesn’t always work. In some cases, it is a gimmick such as the shocking arrival of Jason at the end of the first Friday the 13th movie. However, other times it turns everything in the movie on its head. When done right, it can turn a good movie into a great one. The Smile ending twist works in the same way that the ending of Descent made it an even better horror movie.

When it comes to The Descent, the better ending was the alternate ending shown in the UK. In that ending, Sarah thinks she escaped the mutated creatures. However, she never escaped and viewers saw she was still in the caverns, never escaping her fate. Her mind shut down and gave her a false happy ending. That is what the Smile ending explained. Forget about Rose leaving and believing she had escaped her fate. The trick here was making the audience believe she had won, and then pulling back the curtains and revealing she never escaped and was doomed. That false sense of security made Smile one of the better horror movies of 2022.

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