Why story endings aren’t the end of the story.

by Todd Foley

Mr. and Mrs. Smith is one of my favorite movies. There’s that spectacular tango scene where the two lead characters interrogate one another on the dance floor. Great irony, slick editing and priceless expressions. Then they say it:

John: So much for our happy ending.
Jane: Happy endings are just stories that haven’t finished yet.

I’ve always loved this exchange. It makes me wonder: What happens after a story’s happy ending?

What if, after the very last scene of Julie & Julia, a gas leak causes the Smithsonian to blow up?

What if, after the father and son are reunited in Finding Nemo, Nemo gets caught again?

What if, at the end of Lost in Translation, Bill Murray’s taxi cab causes a fatal accident?

Those are morbid examples and, let’s be honest, exaggerated ones. The point is, what we see as the end of a story – be it joyful, horrific or ambiguous – is actually just the end of a chapter. The story keeps going. As the audience, we’re merely observing a snapshot of a much larger narrative.

Isn’t this what our individual lives are? A lot has gone on before you and I were born, and a lot will happen after we die. Our lives are small part of the human story. When our parts end, the story will go on.


Now for some fun: What stories – happy or sad – have left you yearning for the next part? What stories have left you content and satisfied?