Netflix’s ‘The Starling’ is an emotional drama that follows a couple’s journey after the devastating death of their baby daughter. A tragedy that shatters their relationship, Lilly and Jack struggle to make sense of their loss and, in the process, forget to love each other. The story delicately unfolds, and the characters’ struggle is symbolized by Lilly’s constant battle with a territorial bird that lives in her garden.
Her husband, Jack, faces his own demons in a mental counseling institution. The film is so subtle that viewers might think that not much changes in the end. However, many of the film’s characters go through significant changes, and it is worth going over the film’s nuanced closing scenes once again. Here’s ‘The Starling’ ending, explained. SPOILERS AHEAD.
The Starling Plot Synopsis
The film opens with Lilly and Jack painting the wall of their newborn baby daughter Katie’s nursery while discussing what she will become when she grows up. The next time we see Lilly is a few years on, and her demeanor is decidedly different. She works at a supermarket where her manager repeatedly pulls her up for not focussing on her work. He also awkwardly mentions a tragedy but doesn’t go into the details of it.
Lilly then heads to a counseling center, where her husband Jack lives. The two attend a counseling session together but seem unable to communicate with each other. When asked to speak, both Lilly and Jack appear awkward and seem not to enjoy delving into their issues. Back at home, Lilly attempts to clean up her yard but is viciously attacked by a bird that lives in one of the nearby trees. Try as she might, Lilly is unable to scare the bird away and eventually finds herself at a vet’s clinic to get advice.
As it turns out, the vet, Dr. Larry, was a counselor before “switching to animals,” and he slowly helps Lilly get in touch with the grief she has so far held inside. As Lilly makes progress and tries to reconnect with Jack, the grieving husband retreats into himself and finally asks Lilly to no longer visit him. Hurt, Lilly then argues with Dr. Larry and ends up throwing a stone at the bird, which surprisingly hits it and injures the starling.
The Starling Ending: Do Lilly and Jack Get Back Together?
Lilly then rushes the bird to Dr. Larry, who performs surgery on it but cannot guarantee its recovery. As the grieving mother takes care of the bird, she realizes that the starling has a nest with young chicks. Jack, meanwhile, also begins to confront his issues and admits they don’t stem from his daughter’s death but from his own inability to give himself a chance.
The film draws to a close with Jack and Lilly finally beginning to talk about their feelings. Jack also apologizes to his wife for being so distant and not supporting her through their trying times. The film’s closing scenes then show Lilly and Jack putting on protective gear to step into their garden, where the now-recovered bird and its mate promptly begin to attack them.
Despite facing some significant challenges and at one point being close to losing their marriage, it seems like Jack and Lilly are determined to work towards saving their relationship. Though Lilly’s commitment to try and save their marriage was hardly ever in doubt, Jack kept distancing himself from his wife, and at one point, even considered ending his life.
However, a change comes over him when Jack begins to go through his cupboard and finds the unopened packages that his loving wife has been leaving for him at the counseling center every week. He realizes that his wife will never give up and that he, too, needs to take control of his life. So far blaming his mental state on the death of his daughter, Jack finally realizes that his issues with depression have preceded the tragedy and that he must learn to grapple with them.
Therefore, he finally apologizes to Lilly and begins to focus on the journey ahead rather than dwelling on his past. Near the end of the film, we begin to see Jack smile and, perhaps most notably, use his daughter’s name in conversation without breaking down. Though we don’t know if he moves back in with Lilly at the end, we know for sure that he is visiting her as the two are seen donning helmets and harvesting vegetables together in their backyard. Also, from how Jack discusses furniture shopping with Lilly, we can be certain that he plans to move back in shortly (if he hasn’t already), and the two are well and truly back together.
What Does the Starling Symbolize?
The starling, which also happens to be the movie’s namesake, teaches Lilly many a lesson during their constant battle. After getting repeatedly injured by the tiny bird, Lilly even tries to poison it. However, when Dr. Larry describes starlings as particularly headstrong birds that also mate and build a life together and cannot exist without their partner, Lilly cannot help but see the obvious similarities between the bird and her own life. She also notices that the starling that keeps tormenting her also has chicks of its own. When Lilly notices one of her baby daughter’s socks in the nest, it seals the connection between the grieving mother and the bird tenaciously protecting its young.
Apart from identifying with the bird, Lilly also finds a worthy adversary in the bird that seems to signify all her life’s troubles. Despite repeatedly trying to scare it away, every tactic that Lilly employs fails. However, she refuses to give up. This very closely resembles Lilly’s life, which seems to be overrun with troubles with her husband, at work, and with her own grief. However, Lilly doesn’t give up, and in the end, much like she learns to live with the bird, she also learns to live with her other troubles.
The film’s closing scene of Jack and Lilly putting on helmets and braving the territorial birds in their garden is symbolic of how the two have decided to take on life’s challenges together and not let them tear their marriage apart. Instead of being fearful of the birds or trying to kill them, Lilly and Jack choose to coexist with them, much like they choose to coexist with the sorrow of losing their daughter.
Read More: Where Was The Starling Filmed?