Luckiest Girl Alive‘s ending brings a satisfying closure to its main character’s turbulent journey through trauma. Adapted from Jessica Knoll’s debut novel, Luckiest Girl Alive centers its narrative on Ani (played by Ted‘s Mila Kunis), a New York-based journalist, whose life erodes under the weight of her past trauma. While unraveling Ani’s narrative, Luckiest Girl Alive purposefully shrouds many elements of her past in mystery and only reveals figments of the traumatic event that shapes her present reality.
These elements all comes together towards the ending when Luckiest Girl Alive finally discloses why Ani tries incredibly hard to create a perfect well-controlled present for herself. The final act forces her to destroy this facade of perfection and gives her a new sense of direction that is far more fulfilling and liberating than her previous trauma-driven life. Ani goes through a trial by fire throughout the Netflix psychological thriller’s runtime but ultimately gains the courage and will to rise above her past and make provisions for a better future.
Luckiest Girl Alive‘s narrative is simple, but Ani’s flashbacks are intentionally presented as pieces of a grand puzzle that only align towards the movie’s ending. While this creates enough intrigue and suspense to keep one hooked, it makes certain aspects of Ani’s storyline a little complex. With that in mind, here is a detailed breakdown of Luckiest Girl Alive‘s ending and all the key moments that lead up to it.
Ani’s Traumatic Flashbacks Explained
Luckiest Girl Alive goes back and forth between Ani’s present and past timelines to highlight how she keeps reliving her trauma, while she tries to suppress her memories to have full control over her life. Her past finally catches up to her when an independent true-crime documentary director asks her to recount a school shooting she survived as a teenager and explain why she was accused of being an accomplice in the shooting. When Ani gradually starts confronting her past, little bits and pieces of her backstory reveal that a couple of days before the school shooting, she was sexually assaulted by three boys at a party during her sophomore year. When she tried opening up about it to the school’s authorities, she was silenced since one of the boys, Dean, who belonged to a powerful family. Ani also tried telling her mother about it, but to her dismay, her mother also turned a blind eye towards it and blamed her instead.
After feeling frustrated over the unfair politics that divides students at their school, two boys — one of whom is Ani’s friend, Arthur (played by Thomas Barbusca from The Mick season 1) — orchestrate a school shooting. Two of the three boys, who had previously raped Ani, get killed during the shooting. As a final nail in the coffin for his plan, Arthur shoots Dean in the leg and asks Ani to get her revenge by finishing the job. However, as much as Ani hates Dean, she is unable to do it and stabs Arthur instead. Even though Ani literally saves his life, Dean purports a narrative in which Ani was supposedly an accomplice in the school shooting. By doing so, he avoids being accused of raping her and also gains everyone’s sympathy for his life-long leg injury. Owing to this traumatic experience, Mila Kunis’ character changes her name from TifAni to Ani to assume a new identity – that is until her past comes back to haunt her.
On a side note, the movie is partially based on the true story of source material’s author, Jessica Knoll (via NY Times). The author initially penned down the book’s story as a fictional tale without revealing the truth that inspired it. In 2016, she revealed that her novel’s portrayal of gang rape was based on her own high school experience, when she was assaulted by three boys at a party. “I want to make people feel like they can talk about it, like they don’t have to be ashamed of it,” she quoted in an interview, highlighting why she opened up about the reality of the darker elements of her novel.
Did Ani Tell The Truth About The School Shooting?
For a long time, Ani dodges questions surrounding the school shooting and never confronts Dean’s false narrative. However, when her life starts spiraling out of control, she decides to debunk all the lies Dean (played by Alex Barone from the cast of Hulu’s Dopesick) has been selling for years. Dean blackmails her by claiming that if she takes back her statement of accusing him of rape, he will deny her involvement in the school shooting. Little does Dean realize that Ani has come prepared and has recorded their conversation. Finally standing up for herself, Ani uses the recording to prove that she is telling the truth about the school shooting and her traumatic experiences that led up to it. By doing so, she not only empowers herself, but also finds the right voice to empower others who are struggling tell their “truths.“
Why Ani Finally Confronts Dean
The fear of being blamed and stepped on holds Ani back from telling her truth. When she realizes that her mother, Dina (played by Connie Britton from Promising Young Woman‘s cast), is not on her side and her teacher, Andrew, was expelled just for supporting her, she further conceals the truth and keeps it all to herself. Over time, she conditions herself not to talk about it even though her trauma keeps resurfacing and reminding her of the past. Even when Dean shows up during her interview with the true crime director, she runs away instead of facing him.
A defining moment that makes Ani rethink her life decisions is when she meets the high school teacher who had supported her. Although they briefly interact, Ani proudly tells Andrew (played by Scoot McNairy from the cast of Netflix’s Blonde) that she landed a job at The New York Times, but she understands deep inside that she may never actually take up the job unless she changes certain things. With her past quickly catching up to her, Ani realizes that she can only regain control of her life by confronting her trauma instead of running away from it. This encourages her to not only square up to Dean but also expose him.
Why Ani Breaks Up With Luke
As much as Ani wants to be with Luke, breaking up with him becomes her only choice when he stands in her way of starting afresh. Almost all her life, she lives under the shadow of other people’s narratives and decisions surrounding what she should do. When Luke (played by Finn Wittrock from Deep Water‘s cast) and his family seem to have a problem with her opening up about her harrowing past and its traumatic impact on her life, she decides to end her relationship with Luke and chooses to stay in New York City to write for The New York Times instead of moving to London with him. By doing so, she brings a full closure to a long upsetting chapter of her life and triggers a new one on her own terms.
What Luckiest Girl Alive’s Ending Means For Ani
Ani’s graduation from writing sexually appealing content for a male audience to penning down her own story in The New York Times serves as a tipping point in her rite of passage. It shows that she has come a long way from being the people-pleaser that she used to be and now holds her own decisions above everyone else’s. This is further cemented in the closing scene where a woman attacks Ani (played by That ’90s Show‘s Mila Kunis) by claiming that her story gives her nothing but “fifteen minutes of fame,” but she proudly stands her ground instead of allowing her to silence her.
Luckiest Girl Alive‘s ending establishes that after deciding not to keep her story a secret, Ani has finally paved the way for herself to heal and found a new purpose to write for those who feel silenced like her. As revealed by Luckiest Girl Alive‘s author Jessica Knoll (via EW), the movie’s ending is somewhat meta in the sense that even though it tells the story of a fictional character, it is not a far cry from her own real-life experiences. Just like Ani, Jessica Knoll also received empowering reactions from many women after she published her book and essay.