Warning: spoilers for Bliss are in play. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, head over to Amazon Prime Video, and enjoy!
Movies, and by extension their endings, can be hotbeds of debate, particularly when a movie like Bliss drops into the consciousness. Mike Cahill’s mind-bending tale of dueling realities, and making the choice between which one’s real and what remains as a fantasy, seems to come to a rather inconclusive ending; depending on who you talk to. But I spoke to Salma Hayek about that big finale and what's going on with Bliss' Ending and she gave her own take on what happens.
It sounds weird, to be sure; but after speaking with Ms. Hayek during an interview promoting Bliss’ release on Amazon Prime, it makes a lot of sense. As I’m a skeptic who doesn’t believe there’s a concrete conclusion to the film’s narrative, I was curious which world Salma Hayek believed was the true reality: the blissful utopia that her character Isabel supposedly hails from, or the glum reality that Owen Wilson’s Greg begins his journey in. As far as she’s concerned, the true reality happens to be the one that her character believes in:
The Bliss world. For my character, by the time they create [the other world] the Bliss world. They’re two parallel worlds, I think it’s what my character is completely convinced that’s what exists.
Bliss sees the push and pull between these two worlds weighing on the psyche of Greg throughout the course of the story. In the blissful world, Greg has a doctorate, and happens to live with Isabel, whom he’s also dating. Everything is more colorful, and he even happens to be a successful inventor, which is a far cry from his life in the draber, colorless world we’re introduced to in Bliss. That initial reality, the one that Greg is inclined to believe is real, sees him fired from his job in the opening act of the film, which leads to a chain of events that introduce him to Isabel.
In the more mundane reality Bliss presents as the potentially “real” world, Greg and Isabel live in an open air tarp camp, while possessing godlike powers that can manipulate the world to their designs. It’s here where Greg has his two children, Emily (Nesta Cooper) and Arthur (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), with whom he’s become somewhat estranged from after his divorce. One world sees him as a success, while the other sees him as a father; and Greg has to choose between which world is the most real to him.
That choice is ultimately given to the viewers of Bliss as well, and as I mentioned my uncertainty, Salma Hayek countered with a confident outlook as to how one should interpret the film’s ending. While most films come with a caveat for the viewer to make of it what they may, Bliss is an especially powerful movie to label with that sort of warning. Explaining why this is beneficial to the message Mike Cahill is trying to convey, Hayek laid out what she believes is the crux of the story’s ending:
There is a lot. It depends on who watches it, but there is a lot. The problem is there’s not just one. For example, one thing that I think is beautiful is that my character, towards the end of the movie, my character taught me something. That you have to respect other people’s choices of reality. And right now, this is something so important to know, because it’s like we’re living not in another dimension or reality. It’s all in this dimension, but many different realities with people of completely different ideologies.
Through the presentation of Bliss’s drab and colorless reality as a potential simulation, Mike Cahill’s story already switches things up for audiences that are used to this sort of moral conundrum made famous by movies like The Matrix, and even to a certain extent Todd Phillips’ Joker. Rather than showing someone trying to escape into a blissful utopia, that very version of the world is what Owen Wilson is trying to leave behind. But, as Salma Hayek said herself, no matter what you tell someone about their world, what they choose as reality is ultimately what you have to respect.
So, if you find yourself discussing Bliss with your friends and colleagues after streaming it on Amazon, keep that in mind as you wrestle with which interpretation you yourself choose as the “true” ending of the film.