The Life Before Her Eyes Ending, Explained: Is Diana Dreaming?

‘The Life Before Her Eyes,’ directed by Vadim Perelman, is a 2007 drama thriller film starring Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood alongside Eva Amurri, Oscar Isaac, and others. On the fifteenth anniversary of a tragic school shooting, Diana, a survivor, copes with her trauma and survivor’s guilt. However, haunted by memories of her teenage years and her old best friend Maureen, Diana’s condition worsens, and her reality begins to spiral out of control.

The film features a dual narrative alternating between Diana’s past and her future. By doing so, the film creates a mystery surrounding Diana’s experiences to build suspense and keep the audience engaged. Due to the same, when the two narratives converge in the ending, it might leave viewers with a few questions. If so, here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘The Life Before Her Eyes.’ SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Life Before Her Eyes Plot Synopsis

In the small quiet town of Briar Hills, Diana is a rebellious teenager with a penchant for getting herself in trouble at school. Her neglectful single mother doesn’t like her behavior and the two regularly bicker with one another. Diana’s best friend, Maureen, is a goody-two-shoes Christian girl, Diana’s polar opposite. Nevertheless, the two girls are inseparable and often talk about escaping from Briar Hills forever. Diana finds the town stifling and thinks her life will only start after she gets out of this town.

At 17, Diana dates a mysterious older man, Marcus, who has a house full of felines. Over the summer, the couple, and occasionally Maureen too, frequently breaks into The Penzers’ house to use their pool. However, soon Diana’s relationship with Marcus starts deteriorating after she has to get an abortion following an unwanted pregnancy. Marcus becomes distant and standoffish, leading to a breakup that leaves Diana despising Marcus.

Eventually, on a nondescript day, while Diana and Maureen are alone in the girl’s bathroom, they hear gunshots from the corridor. Diana recalls social outcast Michael Patrick telling her about his plan to bring a gun to the school and kill everyone. Soon, Michael enters the bathroom after killing their bio teacher Mr. McCleod. Once inside, Michael asks the girls to pick which one of them he should kill.

Fast forward fifteen years, Diana is older, still living in Briar Hills, now with a husband, Paul McFee, and a daughter named Emma. As the town prepares for the Hillview High School shooting memorial, Diana dreads the same and tries to hold herself together through the week. At work as an art history professor, Diana constantly sees reflections of her past years in her students. Meanwhile, Diana’s young daughter, Emma, constantly gets in trouble at catholic school for disappearing during lunch.

After a call to the principal’s office, Diana takes Emma out for frozen yogurt and tries to talk to her about the issue. However, Emma behaves stubbornly, refusing to listen to Diana. As a result, Diana parrots back the same reprimands her own mother used on her. As Diana takes Emma to the car, she sees her husband, Paul, on the other side of the street with a younger woman. When she crosses the street to get to them, she gets in an accident. However, after she’s rushed to the hospital, the doctor declares her lucky with no injuries.

Later, on the day of the school shooting’s memorial, Diana visits the school. However, her visit is cut short after she receives a call from her daughter’s principal about Emma having disappeared. After finding news about a pink jacket found near the woods, Diana rushes into the forest to look for her daughter. Simultaneously Diana recalls the day she and Maureen comes across a church with memorial crosses in the front for several unborn children. Among the numerous crosses, one is dedicated to a kid named Emma.

The Life Before Her Eyes Ending: Does Diana Dream Up Her Life as an Adult?

Throughout the film, Diana exists as two distinct characters: teenage Diana and adult Diana. As a young teenager, Diana is reckless and plays by her own rules. Even though people’s perceptions of her affect her, she doesn’t let them influence her choices and continues to be her true self. On the other hand, adult Diana is much more muted. As an adult, Diana has a regular life with a conventional family, and the most jarring of it all— she still lives in Briar Hills.

At first, the difference between her youth and adult life simply seems to be a product of her maturity and trauma. Nevertheless, as the film progresses, it becomes clear that something else is also at play. After Diana confronts her husband about cheating on her, Paul vehemently assures her there’s no one else in his life. During their disagreement, Diana tells him she used to believe if she looked after her family and loved her husband, everything would work out well.

However, this idea of happiness was never Diana’s, to begin with. In a flashback to her teenage years, Diana and Maureen have a conversation about their future. In the conversation, Maureen tells Diana even if she never got out of Briar Hills, Maureen will be happy if she has a happy family and a loving husband. At the time, Maureen’s future doesn’t resonate with Diana, who wants to escape from Briar Hills above all.

The film’s climax loops back to the start, where Michael Patrick holds Diana and Maureen hostage in their school bathroom. Outside the school, several police officers surround the building, helping kids and faculty members escape from the situation. Nevertheless, no one can help Diana and Maureen now. Playing a twisted game, Michael gives the girls a choice about which one of them he should kill.

Maureen, who’s emotionally distraught, tells him if he’s going to kill someone, he should kill her. After training the gun on Maureen’s head, Michael attempts to stretch out the moment and asks Diana for her opinion. At this time, Diana’s life flashes before her eyes. However, instead of her memories, she dreams of a potential future. In the imagined future, Diana would go on to marry the dreamy professor she had a crush on and have a child. Nevertheless, that life would never make her happy since she will never be her old self if Maureen dies.

Does Maureen Die?

From the story’s beginning, it feels natural to assume that Maureen sacrificed herself for Diana. However, once the future dream sequence fizzles out of the narrative completely, all that’s left is Diana and Maureen’s current predicament with a gun in front of them. After Michael asks Diana what she thinks, Diana asks her not to kill her. In response, Michael asks her who he should kill instead.

Before this moment, Diana attends a lecture with Maureen as extra credit work for her biology class. Paul McFee gives the lecture about authoring one’s own destiny and engaging with one’s conscience. He quotes a celebrated philosopher, William James, and tells the listeners to “begin to be now what you will be hereafter.” The same message deeply resonates with Diana and makes her fall for Paul in the first place.

Therefore, when the time comes, Diana decides to follow Paul’s words and creates a future for herself, imagining what can happen if she survives the shooting. Nevertheless, the imagined future constantly references her teenage years. For instance, when Diana gets hit by a car, she has a vision about her past experience when she went to a hospital for an abortion. Similarly, once Maureen tells Diana about receiving a vision from god after getting hit by a car.

The same reflects Diana’s inability to let Maureen go, even in a dream. Therefore, in the end, when faced with a choice to save herself or Maureen, Diana chooses to save Maureen. Once, Diana tells Maureen that she doesn’t want to end up as a woman who’s angry about everything. Diana knows her future will be full of anger, regret, and trauma without Maureen. As such, Diana asks Michael to shoot her, effectively killing herself and her future both. Afterward, Michael commits suicide, leaving Maureen alone but alive.

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