Black Box (2020) Ending, Explained

Acclaimed short-filmmaker Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour made his feature debut with the Prime Video science fiction horror film ‘Black Box.’ Starring Mamoudou Athie, Phylicia Rashad, Amanda Christine, Tosin Morohunfola, and Troy James, the film revolves around Nolan (Athie), a single father who has recently lost his wife in a horrifying accident. The same accident apparently has rendered him amnesiac. As the film progresses, Nolan begins learning bits and pieces about his past with the help of the state-of-art treatment from Dr. Lillian Brooks (Rashad). But as he delves deep into his forgotten past, startling truths begin to come out. SPOILERS AHEAD!

Black Box Plot Synopsis

Nolan has somehow survived the horrific accident that killed his wife but now suffers from severe brain trauma. His amnesia is so profoundly all-consuming that he seems to be unable to even take care of himself. In the absence of any other adults in their lives, his daughter Ava (Christine) has taken up the responsibility of looking after her father. In the opening bits of the film, Nolan loses the job he had as a photographer at a publishing house because his current work is just not up to the mark. Frustrated, Nolan begins undergoing a special treatment to regain his memory.

During the treatment, Nolan gains access to some of his memories through the immersive virtual experience created by the device known as the Black Box. Dr. Brooks gives him a make-believe watch with which he can travel between his memories. The first memory he sees on the black box is apparently of his wedding day. He can’t recognize anyone there, as all of their faces are blurred. He is then attacked by a mysterious entity. As his treatment with Dr. Brooks continues, he begins exploring another memory. This one is set in an all-too-familiar apartment. As Nolan sees the bruise marks on the arms of the woman that is supposed to be his wife, he is horrified.

He later asks his brother Gary (Morohunfola) if he ever had been violent towards his wife. Gary vehemently denies such a notion, claiming that the Nolan he knew was incapable of hurting anyone, let alone his wife. Nolan manages to find the apartment and has a brief encounter with the woman and the child who stay there. It is revealed during his next session with Dr. Brooks that these aren’t memories of Nolan at all, but of Dr. Brooks’ son Thomas, who died after falling down the stairs. After Nolan’s accident, he was declared braindead. It was then that Dr. Brooks stepped in and uploaded Thomas’ consciousness into Nolan’s brain.

Black Box Ending

Thomas couldn’t remember who he was by himself, so Dr. Brooks ensured that he returned for his sessions with her. After helping him establish his control on Nolan’s mind, she advises her son to make the best use of the second opportunity that he has been given. She encourages Thomas to go back and reconcile with his wife, Miranda (Charmaine Bingwa). He subsequently leaves Ava with Gary before approaching his family. Although they are initially skeptical, he eventually manages to convince them that he is indeed Thomas.

But even temporary death hasn’t changed Thomas’ inherent abusive nature. As he realizes that his wife and daughter have removed any trace of him from their lives, he starts becoming violent again. This prompts Miranda to hit him hard enough to knock him out. When he wakes up, he finds himself with Gary and Ava and realizes that somehow his subconscious has taken him back to Nolan’s family. He runs back to his mother, who tells him that these episodes will continue until he deals with the mysterious creature in his mind.

The Truth Behind the Mysterious Entity in Nolan/Thomas’ Mind

With the help of Dr. Brooks, Thomas gets into his own mind once more through the black box. It turns out that the entity is none other than Nolan himself, still somehow alive. Dr. Brooks implores her son to destroy any trace of Nolan left in mind. This is when Gary and Ava show up at the lab and start calling for Nolan. Thomas has a sudden flashback to the moment of his death and discovers that he was physically abusing his daughter when Miranda pushed him down the stairs, killing him.

Thomas realizes that he doesn’t have much to live for. Nolan, on the other hand, has a loving daughter. He lets him go and walks out of the safe room and into the abyss. Nolan is reunited with his daughter. Miranda and her daughter are shown packing, likely preparing to move away from the city. Dr. Brooks is removed from her position at the hospital, but she still has a back-up file containing Thomas’ consciousness. As the film ends, she prepares to bring him back to life once again.

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