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What is No One Will Save You about?
No One Will Save You is ultimately a journey of self-forgiveness. The overall structure is familiar in that the character begins in a place where they’re safe in a world they’ve built, then someone or something disrupts that world, that causes the character to confront whatever they’ve been running/hiding from, ultimately leading to a new world. This formula has been used in projects as varied as The Waterboy, Gravity, and Everything Everywhere All At Once. Duffield’s unique take is an alien invasion. Instead of merely being a gimmick, the aliens serve as an important contrast to the townsfolk. The Greys are complete outsiders to the situation, meaning they’re able to look at Brynn from a neutral perspective and provide empathy and sympathy for what happened, something her neighbors can’t do (or won’t do). This allows Brynn to see herself in a new way, culminating in the all-important act of giving yourself a second chance.
Movie Guide table of contents
- Brynn – Kaitlyn Dever
- Young Brynn – Elizabeth Kaluev
- Maude Collins – Dari Lynn Griffin
- Young Maude – Evangeline Rose
- Mailman – Zack Duhame
- Police Chief Collins – Dane Rhodes
- Mrs. Collins – Geraldine Singer
- Written by – Brian Duffield
- Directed by – Brian Duffield
The ending of No One Will Save You explained
The end of No One Will Save You begins with Brynn’s abduction. After a long battle that included a giant monster, a throat-living tentacle-oid, and a clone of Brynn, the aliens finally succeed in beaming Brynn up to their ship.
Once there, a group of Greys probe her mind, specifically the events that led to the death of Maude. We see how kid Brynn, in the middle of a childish fight, retaliated against Maude’s shove by hitting the other girl in the head with a rock. The strike proved accidentally fatal. We finally understand why people of the town actively disliked Brynn.
The vision continues with Brynn across the table as her younger self writes what seems to be her first of many letters to Maude. Overwhelmed with this sudden portrait of her younger self, there’s a moment of breakthrough as the present Brynn reaches out a hand to her kid-self and shows a sympathy and compassion she has probably long denied that part of her. The red light that had suffused the scene changes to a more pure white.
The Greys debate then beam Brynn back to Earth where she awakens to intense feelings of relief and disbelief that cause her to laugh while lights from the alien ship reflect on the ground around her.
Sometime later, Brynn’s back to a normal routine. She’s happy, presentable, and socializing with the people from her town. Except the people are all still aliens. Later that night, Brynn attends a community dance where she joyfully waltzes with everyone else. Ruby Murray’s song “Knock On Any Door” plays over the scene. In the sky above, a number of alien ships aimlessly drift.
There are two levels to discuss. The literal and the thematic.
On the literal level, the aliens spared Brynn because they found her interesting. First, because she managed to keep foiling their attempts to seize control of her. Second, because they became curious about her backstory. We see this when the one Grey takes the time to peruse the many notes Brynn left for Maude over the years. Even when the throat parasite possessed Brynn, it tried to give her a sense of comfort by presenting a vision of a Maude who was alive and forgiving.
Once they probe her mind, the aliens realize Brynn is a lot like them—an outsider. They’re also incredibly moved by the intense feelings they watch her work through, culminating with the act of self-forgiveness. So rather than continuing to assimilate her into their hive, they simply adopt her as is. Brynn’s okay with this because she’s actually been incredibly lonely.
For over 10 years, she hasn’t really interacted with anyone besides her mom. Then her mom passed. We see at the beginning of the movie how everyone treats her when she goes to town. At best, they ignore her. But there’s a palpable disgust. Especially because it seems that Maude’s dad being the chief of police in a small town means that the town isn’t likely to just move on. You can assume he was an important part of the community, meaning most people would still have reason to think about what Brynn did and continue to punish her over it.
From Brynn’s perspective, living with these aliens is a far better situation. They’re kind to her. Include her. And want to be around her. So she goes along with it and seems to be thriving.
In some ways, this is a twist on a classic outsider story where individuals who feel different from those around them end up connecting and improving through a blossoming relationship. Bones and All. Whip It. Dodgeball. Bottoms. The Karate Kid. Lost in Translation. True Grit. Green Book. And many more all use this core concept. The entire “unlikely friendship” subgenre is built on this idea. Many of the memorable entries will use a traditional first variable then a dynamic second variable. So the first variable might be a kid, teen, or just your average person. While the second variable can be Hitler, a karate master, a movie star, or, in this case, aliens.
Given the last shot of the ships in the sky, it seems safe to assume that No One Will Save You’s alien invasion is probably more extensive than just Brynn’s town. It would also follow that they probably spared more than just her. Though we don’t really have much insight into what the aliens plan to do next or how extensive their population is.
Movies often portray literal events but can take a more symbolic approach. We call that defamiliarization.
So the movie Gravity is about a woman dealing with the grieving process after the loss of a child. The realistic version would show her alone in her dark and empty house, disconnected from the world, ignoring calls, ignoring knocks on the door, until some event causes her to express her grief and work through the emotional mess she’s been avoiding. The very end is a shot of her opening the front door, bathed in natural light, blinking against the sun, renewed and refreshed.
Gravity tells that exact story except it defamiliarizes it by having the mother (Sandra Bullock) be an astronaut who ends up adrift in outer space after a mission goes wrong. Instead of being locked inside her house, she’s quite literally disconnected from planet Earth in the vast void of space. Her struggle to return to Earth ends up symbolizing her working through her grief. An emotional breakthrough coincides with a final effort to live rather than accept doom and be lost in space forever. When she finally crash lands back here, we see her emerge from a capsule, swim to shore, crawl, stand, then walk, which all symbolizes the idea of being reborn. That’s the power of defamiliarization. It takes the normal and allows you to do dynamic things with it while still feeling relatable to the more average human condition.
No One Will Save You is the same thing. There’s a literal story where Brynn learns to forgive herself and get on with her life. Like maybe someone new moves to town and ends up delivering the mail and they start a friendship and for a while Brynn’s able to just be herself. But then the person asks her to go to town for lunch and Brynn refuses. Eventually, it comes out what happened but it doesn’t go well because Brynn’s overwhelmed so rejects the person and recedes back into her hermetic lifestyle only to finally have some breakthrough and decide to make amends or not let the judgment of others stop her from living or something that ends up with her and the mail person resuming their connection in a way that shows Brynn’s ready to start a new chapter.
Instead, Brian Duffield went with aliens. You can view the aliens as an externalization of Brynn’s own grief and self-loathing. Which is why so many of them attack her. But there’s the one that’s more curious than violent. It represents that voice of reason that’s able to say “Hey, you were a kid. You didn’t mean to hurt Maude. Maybe it’s time you let go?” Which leads to the doppelganger the Greys beam down. Brynn killing that other version of her then holding the hand of her younger self is the most obvious symbolism in the movie. It encapsulates a confrontation with how Brynn had seen herself up to that point. And the unburdening that happens when you come face to face with these feelings. No one else can do that for you. Only you can do that for you.
That’s why we go from the defeat of the self to finally seeing what happened that day. Brynn’s no longer rejecting those feelings and that memory. She’s incorporating it. Through this frame, it wasn’t the Greys who let her return to Earth, it was herself. And the town being populated by aliens is also a defamiliarization. As Brynn was locked away for so long and was so convinced that everyone hated her, the notion that she’s finally at a point where she feels confident to be part of society means that her town is different than before. Alien. Which doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Just different from what you had known.
So at the core of No One Will Save You’s ending is a very real feeling. It’s familiar to anyone who has ever moved away from home then returned. Things often look the same but feel completely different. It’s familiar to those who have had to ask for forgiveness and work their way back to normalcy. Whether that’s with others or just with yourself.
We all have our own aliens to battle. You don’t have to defeat them. That’s probably an impossible task. But finding a way to live with these emotions is possible. The end of No One Will Save You is similar to that of The Babadook, where the monster (which represents grief) isn’t defeated so much as it’s incorporated into the household dynamic. Trauma, grief, guilt. These are things that can devour us whole, until we reverse the dynamic and realize they’re just part of who we are rather than what defines us. When we flip that switch, we approach harmony. Which can feel like a nice dance on a summer’s night.
The themes and meaning of No One Will Save You
Punishment and the path to forgiveness
Friends sometimes fight. Even best friends. Especially when you’re kids. What happened between Brynn and Maude was a tragedy that begs the question—is there ever a road to redemption? A path to forgiveness? What is the proper punishment for a terrible decision made by a child in the heat of the moment?
While Brynn avoided prison, she’s been socially jailed. A decade spent living in what amounted to house arrest. After the death of her mom, she was completely alone. Alone with the grief and guilt and remorse.
Is that enough? If Brynn had gone to jail, instead, would the town have been more forgiving? Should she have moved away a long time ago? Would the physical distance lead to a psychological distance that would have allowed her to move on with her life?
Duffield’s answer seems to be “no”. When Brynn gets on the bus, in an attempt to leave the town and the aliens behind, what happens? On the literal level, aliens attack her, forcing her off the bus. But we know that the aliens are symbolic of Brynn’s guilt. Meaning that her failed attempt to bus out of town is representative of the way in which her guilt has chained her to that place. If not physically, then definitely emotionally.
That seems to imply that Brynn’s redemption was never up to the justice system or the people of the town.
Why is the movie called No One Will Save You?
Using the phrase “No one will save you” as a title works on multiple levels. First, it establishes a tone that is in line with the horror genre. It also primes the audience for a smaller, intimate movie about someone struggling alone. Lastly, it has that glass half-full/half-empty dynamic that can imply negativity or positivity depending on the perspective of each individual. To a pessimist, the title comes off as implying doom. To the optimist, there’s the subtext of “you must save yourself.”
The positive reading is what we see play out with Brynn. Her mom is gone. The people of the town refuse to give her any absolution. The only person Brynn can rely on during this alien invasion is herself. As we’ve established, the invasion represents her battle with grief. And it’s ultimately that confrontation with her doppelganger, the double, that results in Brynn killing off the part of herself that had been hurting her for so long. It’s through this psychological death that she attains catharsis and closure and a rebirth of her mind, heart, and soul.
In that way, No One Will Save You serves as a love letter to anyone out there who is struggling with forgiving themselves and making a positive change in their life.
Important motifs in No One Will Save You
Lack of dialogue
Duffield gave an interview to Entertainment Weekly and mentioned the lack of dialogue.
I know there was a scene where [Brynn] was going to try to get help at a police station. I wrote that scene and subsequent scenes of Brynn having a breakdown because no one would help her. Then I realized, I don’t think she’s talked in this movie yet. And sure enough she had not… It was a character thing where this person really wants a community and doesn’t think she’s deserving of one. It felt like that device just amplified her character. Most of the movie there’s not really a good reason for her to talk because she’s trying so hard to not make a sound. She’s not going to say, “It’s an alien in my house!”
So we have the practical reason for why Brynn barely speaks. But also the thematic one—she distances herself out of guilt. The one time she does speak, it’s in the vision given to her by the throat parasite, that moment where she believes she’s face to face with Maude and we hear her say, through tears, “I’m sorry, Maude.” That’s a powerful moment as an apology is an attempt at closure. For a character who had been almost entirely voiceless, it’s an important step in the healing process.
There’s a room in Brynn’s house where she hangs all the letters to Maude. For a character who says so little out loud, she clearly is thinking about a lot and has a lot to say. It makes clear just how much she misses Maude and how guilty she feels about what happened. We know it’s taking up a lot of internal space. So the letters are Duffield’s way of externalizing everything that’s going on within Brynn.
The Greys use light as a kind of weapon. The red light freezes Brynn in place, keeping her from being able to move. While the white light is used as a kind of tractor beam. When the Greys teleport Brynn from their ship, back to Earth, we have this shot of Brynn on the road. She wakes up and realizes the aliens let her go. But more than that, she realizes she’s ready to move on. Surviving the Greys and seeing the situation with Maude through their eyes has forced her to confront herself in ways she had avoided. So the relief of the aliens letting her go combines with the catharsis she suddenly feels. In that moment, gentle lights flash around her, soft, pretty blooms of red, blue, orange, yellow, green. It’s clearly something coming from the alien ship that Brynn can see but viewers can’t. And that’s fitting because what she’s experiencing in that moment is personal.
Questions & answers about No One Will Save You
What did Brynn do that upset everyone?
Brynn and Maude were childhood best friends. When they were 12 years old, they had a random fight. The reasons for the fight aren’t clear. We just see the two in the woods. Maude shoves Brynn. Brynn lands near a rock, grabs the rock, then rises up and swings wildly at Maude and cracks the other girl in the skull with a fatal blow.
Given the small town and the fact that Maude’s dad is the chief of police, people weren’t inclined to forgive Brynn. Because Maude’s parents still held a grudge, the rest of the community did as well.
Can Brynn talk?
Yeah. She just doesn’t really have reason to speak in the movie. And going dialogue-less not only adds to the main themes but serves as a gimmick that gives No One Will Save You a unique quality.
Why did the aliens make Brynn part of their community? Is it a happy ending?
We don’t know much about the Greys. They have their own bodies but it seems they also want to possess others. It’s actually unclear if the tentacle parasite is the true alien and the Greys are simply little more than vehicles, just like we see with the people from Brynn’s town. Regardless, the aliens allow Brynn to remain an individual rather than take her over.
As far as we know, the aliens aren’t entirely evil. They’re definitely intelligent. And it seems that Brynn outsmarting them over and over again piqued their curiosity. Especially everything with Maude. Given that Brynn was also an outsider, it seems they maybe even felt a degree of kinship with her. That mixture of identification and compassion led to them cohabitating with Brynn. And we can assume there are probably more people around town or the state or the country or the world who the Greys deemed interesting enough to stay themselves.
Just narratively speaking, if you start with a character who has no community, then the simple way to have a happy ending is to let them find a community. In this case, it just happens to be aliens. Midsommar did something similar. Right up front, Dani loses her sister, mother, and father. The loss of family leaves her reeling and susceptible to the offerings of a commune-that-is-really-a-cult. The movie ends with her finding a new family and seemingly happy, much like No One Will Save You. There’s a sense of it being a positive ending, until you think about it a little more and realize all the death that happened and that Dani’s probably escaping from her pain rather than actually healing.
You could make a similar case for Brynn in No One Will Save You but the writer/director Brian Duffield has gone on record saying he intended for Brynn to have a positive conclusion. In talking with Collider, he said: …but I just liked her too much to be pouring more salt on so many wounds. So I wanted her to be better off at the end than she was at the beginning of the movie no matter what, and I wanted her to have some kind of communal element because that’s such a huge part of the movie that she doesn’t have a community.
Despite Duffield’s good intentions, one can certainly argue for a more negative interpretation of Brynn continuing to live where she does and essentially be a pet for these world invaders.
Will No One Will Save You have a sequel?
Given the success the film immediately had after its Hulu debut, you’d have to imagine some executive has floated the idea of a sequel. Horror tends to do well on streaming, especially sci-fi horror, so it seems inevitable that we see another Duffield project in the works soon. Maybe it won’t be a direct sequel to No One Will Save You but something but I can easily imagine exploring someone else’s story in another part of the world. Or just seeing what happens with Brynn next. Especially if she finally leaves home and goes to a city. It would be a cool twist on the fish-out-of-water story if she moved to Los Angeles and the whole place was full of aliens. What’s different? What’s the same? I’d actually be really interested in a pivot away from the horror genre into, say, a rom com.
But if they were keeping it horror, the easiest situation would be another alien invasion. The predators of the Greys. So now you have Brynn working with the Greys to protect the planet from these new invaders. It lets you get deeper into the lore and sci-fi, ramp up the horror, and maybe make Brynn even more of an action hero. We’ll see what happens! Whatever Duffield does next will certainly have everyone’s attention.
What types of aliens are in No One Will Save You?
Duffield refers to the aliens as Greys. And it seems they come in a few versions: Standard, Big, Small, and what we’ll call a Controller.
The Standard Grey is what we see in Brynn’s home. Vaguely humanoid but similar to the classical depiction of a Roswell alien. Big head, big eyes, skinny limbs.
The Small Grey is similar to the Standard but is much shorter and has longer arms with giant claws that seem specially designed for close quarters combat. It doesn’t necessarily show the same intelligence as the Standard.
The Big Grey has the same torso and head as the Standard and Small but its limbs are even more exaggerated so give the being a spider-like quality.
Then we have the Controller. The Controller sits in the throats of its hosts. Once there, it seems to gain total and complete control of the body. They’re drastically different in appearance from the rest of the Greys. It’s unclear if they’re all part of the same species. Or if the Controller is something invented by the Greys. Or if the Controllers conquered the Greys the same way the Greys have humans.
Now it’s your turn
Have more unanswered questions about No One Will Save You? Are there themes or motifs we missed? Is there more to explain about the ending? Please post your questions and thoughts in the comments section! We’ll do our best to address every one of them. If we like what you have to say, you could become part of our movie guide!