Terrible things happen, but you have strangers to rely on even if you have no friends. With Danish writer-director Lone Scherfig at the helm, the 2019 drama movie ‘The Kindness of Strangers’ comes off as a hastily drawn but warm-hearted exploration of the lives of six lonely people whose paths collide and intersect in the backdrop of a snowy NYC.
Alice juggles between three jobs, Jeff does not have a career (to begin with), and Marc is an ex-convict who finds it hard to open up. At the center of the story is Clara, who has come to the Big Apple to make her children worldly and flee from her abusive husband. The casual plot holes notwithstanding, the movie’s heart seems to be in the right place. Let us recount Clara’s journey, as well as the strangers’ whom she meets in the quest. SPOILERS AHEAD.
The Kindness of Strangers Plot Synopsis
When her husband is asleep at the dead of the night, Clara takes her children Anthony and Jude and leaves the house in Upstate NY. Jeff loses his salesman job when he throws a chair out of his office in a fit of rage. Alice works as a nurse by the day, and at night, she runs the community service and the soup kitchen from her office in a church. She is also the orchestrator of the support group Forgiveness. In the Russian-American part of the town, Timofey, or Tim Mortimer, is struggling to run his ancestral restaurant named Winter Palace. Along comes ex-convict Marc, who has some experience in running restaurants.
Impressed by Marc’s personality, Timofey hires Marc as a manager. At night, Marc, who has dealt with a history of addiction in his family, attends Alice’s support group with his attorney John Peter. Clara has to find food for her children, and she sneaks into a posh Russian-American wedding to steal a plate of starters. Marc catches Clara sneaking around in the process, but she makes an impression on him. After some nights of roaming around motels and sleeping in the car, Clara and the children walk into a Chinese restaurant, but her husband catches up to her. Clara and the children escape through the backdoor and end up at Alice’s church, destitute and needing shelter.
Alice lets them stay for the night. Jude wanders out into the snow and falls unconscious. Clara takes Jude to a hospital, discovering that Alice is a nurse there. Jeff tries his hand at other odd jobs — laundry and the soup kitchen. His every effort ends in disaster, and he ends up on the street with pneumonia. Alice rescues Jeff, appointing him to be a caretaker in her office. Alice cannot keep Clara at the church since Clara’s husband may track them down, but Clara and Anthony sleep in Winter Palace under the piano with some ingenuity. Marc discovers them and asks them to stay at his apartment. An unlikely chemistry starts brewing.
The Kindness of Strangers Ending: Do Marc And Clara End Up Together? Does Clara Win The Case?
The only thing that can save this mushy mess from becoming too gloomy is the budding romance between Marc and Clara. When Marc lets Clara stay at his apartment (more of a storage room than an apartment), Clara finds a haven from her prying husband. Due to the past abuse, Anthony concludes that Marc has an ulterior motive, but Clara dissuades her child. One night, Marc gives Clara the proposal of going for a walk. Clara bails out since Anthony has nightmares. But moments after, Clara and Marc dance in a wedding ceremony at the Winter Palace.
Later, Anthony says that he saw some compromising photos from his father’s computer. In effect, Clara gets a chance to win the custody of her children, and Marc introduces him to John Peter. Meanwhile, Clara finds out that her husband went to his dad’s house, bashing a telephone on his head. This development illustrates her husband’s volatile behavior, and Clara has a fat chance of winning the case. Moreover, she also gets a place to stay. When Clara spills it out to Marc, he stops her midway and goes ahead for a kiss. Uneasy, Clara retreats, saying that she has to take care of her children. Clara wins the case, after all, with a bit of help from strangers.
Alice organizes a reunion, and Clara and Marc are present for the occasion. They eye each other while dining. Clara later escapes to the kitchen to say that she likes him. However, they bid goodbyes with a hug, leaving us without closure, but the closure comes later still. Clara visits the hotel for one last time in the finale, handing over a token gift to Marc for all he has done for Clara. The gift entails swimming trunks, and Clara hopes to go swimming someday. Marc asks Clara to give him ten minutes, and the suggestion entails that they head to the beach following those ten minutes. In the end, then, it seems Marc and Clara overcome their hesitations and choose to give life another shot together.
Does Alice Keep All Her Jobs?
For most parts of the movie, kind and strong-willed hustler Alice juggles between two jobs – a nurse by the day and a soup kitchen worker at night. Moreover, she also presides over the group Forgiveness for people with low self-esteem. When Forgiveness and her voluntary work keep growing, Alice thinks of leaving the hospital job altogether. Alice, we come to know, is as clueless about life as Jeff, despite her significant achievements in the betterment of the community. One night, Alice confides in Jeff that she is not good with people anymore. In Alice’s mind, she comes off as a person whom everyone knows but nobody cares about. Following four years of single living, she has also hit rock bottom.
However, the final moments give us hope, as Alice grows a fondness of strangers and trivialities of life. Towards the movie’s end, the head nurse from Alice’s hospital visits her. When Alice expresses her wish to leave the day job, the head nurse divulges that people in the street are grateful for Alice’s work. There are also apparently complaints about the waiting queue being too long. The head nurse gives Alice her word that the hospital would try to fund the social work. In the finale, Alice resumes her support group within the comfort of the hospital, and we get the idea that she keeps both her jobs.
Does Jeff Land A Job? What Is The Instrument He Plays In The End?
From the beginning of the story, Jeff comes off as an absolute mess. He cannot keep a job and throws temper tantrums when cornered. After the salesman’s gig gets thrown out on the street along with a chair (which ends up at John Paul’s office), Jeff tries his luck in laundry and the soup kitchen. No one is eager to give Jeff a job, and he gets kicked out of the rented apartment. After being rescued from the street with an acute onset of pneumonia, Jeff lands in the care of Alice, whom he knew from the soup kitchen. Alice takes Jeff to her church office, and Jeff gets boarding there.
At the end of the story, Jeff finally gets a job as a doorman at the Winter Palace. Although this job is not a walk in the park for him, Marc is happy that Jeff is trying his best. He takes a heavy instrument out of the door out of sheer curiosity and starts playing it. This instrument is the same balalaika bass about which the investors enquired from Marc. Seemingly, they wanted to appoint Marc as a doorman, but Marc had prior experience of running a restaurant. Therefore, Tim appointed Marc as the manager while the duty of playing the balalaika bass fell upon Jeff’s shoulders. It is not like he had to play it, but he happily agrees to give it a try.