Why Annie Doesn’t Say Goodbye To Robert Redford’s Tom In The Horse Whisperer’s Ending

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Summary

  • Annie’s decision to leave without saying goodbye to Tom is driven by her desire to spare him the pain of goodbye and avoid getting caught up in their relationship.
  • The bittersweet ending of The Horse Whisperer highlights the complexity of relationships and the difficult choices that often have to be made in the real world.
  • Annie’s decision to prioritize her family and give her marriage a second chance adds depth and realism to the characters, making them more relatable and human.


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The bittersweet ending of The Horse Whisperer leaves audiences curious about why Annie does not bid a final goodbye to Tom before leaving, even though she loves him. In its opening moments, The Horse Whisperer sets the stage for its poignant drama by portraying a tragedy in which a young girl, Grace (played by Scarlett Johansson), gets severely injured while horse riding. The more distant she grows from her family after the incident, the more her horse reflects the same. However, instead of putting down the horse, Grace’s mother, Annie, finds a horse whisperer who not only helps Grace and her horse heal but also makes room for Annie to find answers she did not know she was seeking.

As Grace and her horse, Pilgrim, gradually heal from their trauma and learn to trust each other again, Annie and Tom, too, start to develop feelings for one another. However, things take an unexpected turn after Grace and Pilgrim overcome their trauma, and Annie decides to head back home. After giving Tom the false hope of “one final ride,” Annie disappears from the ranch, making it hard not to wonder why she would leave without saying goodbye to Tom.

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Annie Can’t Bring Herself To Say Goodbye To Tom

Annie and Tom on Tom's Ranch in The Horse Whisperer

Annie finds herself at a crossroads toward the end of The Horse Whisperer when her husband, Robert, asks her to choose between coming back home or staying at the ranch with Tom (played by retired star Robert Redford). As much as she wishes to stay with Tom, she realizes she would want to live with her family in the city for the rest of her life. Hence, she chooses to leave but cannot bring herself to say goodbye to Tom for two major reasons. Early in the movie, Tom mentions that he does not like goodbyes. To avoid giving him the pain of bidding her farewell, she decides to leave without telling him.

Annie understands that Tom deserves a semblance of closure before she leaves, and a formal goodbye would give him that. However, deep down, she also realizes if she meets him before leaving the ranch, she may never be able to walk away from their relationship. Therefore, she departs unannounced as Tom watches her from a distance when she leaves.

The Horse Whisperer’s Bittersweet Ending Is Better Than A Happy One

Robert Redford whispering to a horse in The Horse Whisperer

As tragic as The Horse Whisperer‘s ending may seem, it is better than a happy one where Annie chooses to stay with Tom. The reason being that the ending realistically highlights the complexity of relationships and choices. It shows how, in the real world, not everything can perfectly fall into place, and often difficult decisions have to be made. From its initial moments, The Horse Whisperer establishes Annie as a sharp-witted and self-aware individual who acts on her impulses at times but always settles for honesty and prioritizes her family’s well-being over everything else.

The Horse Whisperer‘s bittersweet ending, where Annie decides to give her marriage a second chance, further cements how her family is her top priority. If Annie had stayed with Tom in the movie’s ending, The Horse Whisperer would have also been another traditional Hollywood drama where all ends well, which would have diminished its sense of realism. Therefore, The Horse Whisperer‘s nuanced conclusion is better than an unrealistically optimistic one because it adds more depth to its characters and makes them appear more human.