Cry Macho Ending, Explained

Image Credit: : Claire Folger/Warner Bros. Pictures

‘Cry Macho’ marks acclaimed actor and director Clint Eastwood’s return to the rodeo that is the Western movie genre. The road trip drama film is an adaptation of N. Richard Nash’s novel of the same name. It tells the story of Mike Milo, a weary cowboy who is hired by his former boss to retrieve his son Rafael “Rafo” Polk from Mexico.

The film is a tale of searing emotions that explores the relationship between two men who are conflicted about where they belong and take pride in being self-sufficient. As the movie approaches its climax, both Mike and Rafo must make crucial decisions that will shape their futures. Here’s everything you need to know about the ending of ‘Cry Macho.’ SPOILERS AHEAD!

Cry Macho Plot Synopsis

In ‘Cry Macho,’ Mike Milo is a former rodeo star whose career ended after a severe injury. He works as a ranch hand and trains horses. Mike’s former boss, Howard Polk, who helped him during the tough times, asks Mike to retrieve his son, Rafo, from Mexico. Howard believes that Rafo is being abused by his mother, Leta.

Mike reluctantly accepts the task and sets out for Mexico. He meets Leta, who informs Mike that Rafo is a misbehaving teenager who indulges in criminal activities and spends his time cockfighting. Mike tracks down Rafo and meets his pet rooster, Macho. Mike convinces Rafo to come with him to Texas. However, after promising to meet Mike later, Rafo does not show up.

Mike talks to Leta, who tries to sleep with him, but he rebuffs Leta’s advances, and she is offended. Leta asks Mike to leave. A frustrated Mike finds Rafo in his car. Mike learns that Rafo is indeed abused by his mother and her friend, Aurelio. He decides to complete the task and reunite Rafo with his father. However, on the road, their car is stolen, and the police come looking for them.

They are forced to stop in a small town named Janasco and meet the generous Marta, a widow who owns a cafe. Mike and Rafo spend a few weeks in the town, and they grow closer to Marta and her family. Mike helps a local rancher tame wild horses and teaches Rafo horseriding. Aurelio comes looking for them, and Mike and Rafo decide to hit the road. Mike reveals why Rafo’s father really wants him back, and the teenager must choose where he wants to be.

Cry Macho Ending: Does Rafo Reunite With His Father?

Throughout the movie, Rafo is conflicted about meeting his dad. The teenager trusts no one but strikes a friendly relationship with Mike. Mike tells him that his father wants him around. However, even Mike was initially unaware that Howard wants Rafo back to negotiate about the investments he made in Mexico in Leta’s name. After Mike reveals this to Rafo, they have an argument.

Aurelio arrives and pushes Mike and Rafo’s car into a ditch. He holds Mike at gunpoint and tries to take Rafo with him. However, Macho intervenes, allowing Mike to take the gun. Mike, Rafo, and Macho escape in Aurelio’s car. They arrive at the border, where Howard is waiting for Rafo. Mike and Rafo part ways with Rafo leaving Macho with Mike.

Initially, Rafo is angry at Mike for hiding the truth from him. He feels betrayed by Mike and his father. Mike tells Rafo about the regrets of his life and says that being tough in life left him old and alone. He hints that being “macho” doesn’t mean he has to do everything alone, a lesson that we know Mike has only just learned on this trip. He leaves the choice up to Rafo. Mike’s words convince Rafo to meet his father, and in the end, they are reunited.

Do Mike and Marta End Up Together?

After leaving Rafo with his father at the border, Mike turns back and returns to Janasco. He reunites with Marta, and the two are seen dancing together in the cafe. Therefore, we have no doubt that Mike and Marta end up together. Mike and Marta both have seen the loss of their loved ones in life. They make an ideal pair, and Mike also gets along with Marta’s granddaughters. He is liked by the townsfolk and has a job there as well.

However, Mike has the task of ensuring Rafo’s future is in good hands. He fulfills his duty of taking Rafo to his father, but only after he knows that is what Rafo wants. In many ways, Rafo is a reflection of Mike. When we first meet Mike, he is a weary old man marred with losses and harsh realities of life who does not trust anyone, nor does he like to depend on others. Rafo is also the same and feels he does not need anyone.

Their shared time together helps Mike understand that everything worthwhile in life is waiting for him back in Mexico. Therefore, he turns around and goes back to Janasco. The genius of the film lies in its simplistic ending that reminds us that our search for answers to the bigger questions in life often blindsides us from the joys of living.

How Is the Ending Different From the Novel?

Viewers who have read the original novel must be aware that it was initially penned as a screenplay. Therefore, it is worth looking at how the film adaptation’s ending differs from the original ending depicted in the novel. In the book, Howard refuses to take up responsibility when the police catch Mike and Rafo. Rafo decides to head back to Janasco while Mike drives towards Texas and is followed by the police. Thus, he ensures Rafo’s safety. In the end, Mike is badly wounded from a gunshot but makes it past the border, and police drop the case. Mike decides to return to Mexico and look for Rafo.

The film’s ending is drastically different from the novel, and it is understandable why. Eastwood’s adaptation is essentially a subversion of the macho and robust image that men are expected to carry. The film implies that it is okay for men to be dependant and not figure out everything by themselves. The choices that both main characters make represent that idea. Mike and Rafo both believe they do not need anyone in life.

Yet Mike chooses to be with Marta while Rafo opts to go with his dad. Ultimately, Mike and Rafo both end up uprooting each other’s false ideas about masculinity and save each other from wallowing in its toxicity and false reassurances. It is a poignant note to end this journey on and provides an underlying message that will resonate with the audience.

Read More: Where Was Cry Macho Filmed?