The Unforgivable Ending, Explained

Image Credit: Kimberley French/ Netflix

Netflix’s ‘The Unforgivable’ follows the gritty, emotional tale of a woman who tries to piece her life back after spending twenty years in prison. On the search for her long-lost sister, Ruth must overcome her personal trauma as well as the prejudice of those that still see her as a criminal. However, this proves to be a daunting task, and every small defeat pushes the tragic woman further from ever laying eyes on her sister.

The winding, brooding tale ends in a flurry of activity, including a kidnapping, adding a sudden dose of thriller drama into the narrative. If you were left wondering what exactly happens in the closing moments of the film, we’re here to take you through it. Here is ‘The Unforgivable’ ending, explained. SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Unforgivable Plot Synopsis

The film opens with Ruth Slater being released from prison after spending two decades incarcerated. Following a horrific crime in which she seemingly shot a sheriff, she is given an even longer sentence but released early on account of good behavior. Her parole officer helps her move to a halfway house, but Ruth finds it challenging to get a job because of her reputation as a “cop killer.” During frequent flashbacks in the film, we see how a Sheriff named Mac was shot while trying to evict Ruth and her young sister, Katherine, from their house.

Back in the present, Ruth finds that a lawyer and his wife are the newest owners of her old family house. She befriends the former and gets him to help her track down her sister. However, things get unpleasant when she meets Katherine’s adoptive parents, and Ruth cannot contain her emotions. Eventually, they disagree with allowing her to meet Katherine. However, their young daughter Emily, overhearing her parents’ conversation, digs through their old papers and discovers a box full of letters Ruth wrote to Katherine from prison.

Upon reading the letters, Emily is moved and contacts the desperate ex-convict, giving her some details of who her long-lost younger sister has grown up to be. However, unbeknownst to either of them, Ruth is being watched by Mac’s disgruntled sons Steve and Keith, who plan on avenging their father’s death.

The Unforgivable Ending: What Did Ruth (Sandra Bullock) Do? Who Killed the Sheriff?

From what Emily tells her, Ruth learns that Katherine is playing at a recital nearby. Excited to finally see her sister, she rushes to find her lawyer but is confronted by his wife, Liz. Amidst their argument, Ruth gets a call saying that her sister has been kidnapped. Horrified, she and Liz rush to the address the kidnapper gives them, and Ruth goes in alone to confront him.

Inside, we see that Steve has mistakenly kidnapped Emily, thinking her to be Ruth’s sister. As he threatens to kill the young girl, the former convict reasons with him, saying that violence will not make him feel better. Eventually, Steve lowers his gun, and Liz calls the authorities. In the film’s closing scenes, Emily’s family comes to pick her up, and Ruth catches a glimpse of Katherine. As their eyes meet, Katherine walks over and wordlessly hugs her older sister as her adoptive parents look on.

The film revolves around Ruth’s horrific but accidental crime, which she committed as she was being evicted from her house. From the multiple flashbacks and few conversations the protagonist has, we learn that her parents passed away, leaving her alone to care for her infant sister Katherine. When the authorities arrived to evict young Ruth and her sister from their family home, the overprotective older sibling barricaded themselves inside with a gun. As Mac tried to enter through the back door, Katherine walked away without Ruth noticing and accidentally picked up the rifle kept nearby.

In the film’s big reveal, we find that the sheriff was shot not by Ruth but by her baby sister Katherine. In order to save her 5-year-old sibling from being blamed for the murder, Ruth took responsibility for the crime and got sent to prison for twenty years.

Does Katherine Remember Ruth?

Having spent over twenty years trying to contact her younger sister, Ruth’s foremost goal once she is released from prison is to find Katherine. However, she is restrained by a court order from directly reaching out to her sister, which is why Ruth employs the help of a lawyer. When Katherine’s adoptive parents all but refuse to allow the young girl to meet Ruth, any chance of a formal meeting between the two long-lost siblings evaporates. However, at the end of the film, when the family comes to pick up the traumatized Emily, Katherine comes along and serendipitously meets Ruth.

Thus, Ruth finally gets to lay eyes on Katherine, and the two hug. However, they do not exchange words, making it unclear just how much the younger sibling remembers her childhood. It is earlier revealed that Katherine only has flashes of memories from her time with Ruth and doesn’t remember her older sister.

This could be a result of the mental and physical (the rifle’s recoil hits young Katherine in the face) trauma that the young girl went through. However, the hug that the two siblings share at the end seems to spark some old, dormant memories in Katherine, possibly telling her that the childhood she spent with Ruth was a good one. This would also match how Ruth fondly remembers taking care of her younger sister and describes the happy times they had. Thus, it is most likely that Katherine still doesn’t clearly remember Ruth but has realized that the latter is a person who loved and cared for her and continues to do so.

Read More: Where Was The Unforgivable Filmed?