Welcome to our Colossus Movie Guide for Polite Society. This guide contains everything you need to understand the film. Dive into our detailed library of content, covering key aspects of the movie. We encourage your comments to help us create the best possible guide. Thank you!
What is Polite Society about?
Polite Society is a dynamic mix of tone and styles. Superbad meets Scott Pilgrim vs. The World meets Everything Everywhere All At Once meets RRR. Ria’s determination is as admirable as it is frustrating, simultaneously her greatest strength and weakness. It endears her to people even as it drives them crazy. How do we navigate such character traits? In ourselves but also in others. And how much do we rely on those we love to fuel our drive? What’s fair to ask of them and what’s too much? Polite Society navigates a number of existential questions while embracing aspects of comedy, action, sci-fi, and soap.
Of course, there’s also the tension between generations and societal expectations, especially on women, and what individual’s want for themselves. Lena’s plot epitomizes this as her self-doubt fuels a retreat from her own desires and puts her at the mercy of what others want from and of her.
Movie Guide table of contents
- Ria Khan – Priya Kansara
- Lena Khan – Ritu Arya
- Fatima Khan – Shobu Kapoor
- Rafe Khan – Jeff Mirza
- Raheela – Nimra Bucha
- Salim – Akshay Khanna
- Clara – Seraphina Beh
- Alba – Ella Bruccoleri
- Kovacs – Shona Babayemi
- Eunice Huthart – Eunice Huthart
- Written by – Nida Manzoor
- Directed by – Nida Manzoor
The ending of Polite Society explained
Ria and friends try to kidnap Lena from her own wedding. But the plan fails when Raheela gains the upper hand and threatens Ria’s life. Raheela gets Lena to the altar. Before the ceremony can finish, Ria crashes it. She reveals the tests Raheela and Salim have conducted on Lena. Something Lena realizes is true. She and her parents now understand Ria was right about Salim and his mother. The sisters escape but guests loyal to Raheela give chase.
With the help of Clara, Alba, and Kovacs, the sisters escape the party. Only to run into Raheela. She and Ria have another fight, with Raheela gaining the upper hand. Beaten down but not finished, Ria regains her feet, delivers her famous line, “I am the fury!” then finally hits the jumping spin kick. Raheela is out. The sisters leave. Ending up at a diner, they crush some late night food and reconnect. Eunice, the stuntwoman Ria idolizes, sends an email inviting Ria to meet.
What we learn from Lena:
The core tension between Ria and Raheela embodies a societal tension between independence and patriarchal expectations of women. Ria is part of this new generation that doesn’t care about what polite society wants from or expects of her. It makes her a bit of a weirdo but she’s happy and has friends. Raheela is someone who prioritized raising her son and traditional roles, at the cost of her own hopes and dreams.
Lena is caught in the middle. Even though Ria’s the protagonist, Lena’s the main character and representative of the everyperson who has that crisis of faith about their future. Do you chase the dream or get the corporate job that allows you to pay the bills? It’s a decision most of us face at one point or another. You can view Ria as the angel on one shoulder, Raheela as the devil on the other. Each one pleading for Lena to follow the path they want.
That’s the broader, metaphorical conceit. Additional nuance comes from Raheela planning to use Lena as an incubator for a clone of Raheela. Salim explains he’s doing this to give his mom the opportunity she sacrificed to raise him. That means Raheela actually wants what Ria and Lena have—options. But to get that for herself, she’s willing to sacrifice the futures of the younger women. Going back to the broader conceit, this becomes emblematic of the way that older generations have power and often use that power to exploit next generations. An especially hot topic in the politics of the early-21st century.
So the final showdown between Ria and Raheela represents Lena’s path. Which is supposed to make the viewer think about their own path. But there’s a caveat. It’s not like Lena goes right back to being an artist and succeeds. She’s still not sure what she wants to do. But she’s giving herself the time to figure it out, on her own terms. Maybe she will just want to get a job, meet someone, get married, start a family. The difference is that it’s on her terms, not “Raheela’s”. She wouldn’t be tricked or forced onto that path.
The end of Polite Society is essentially telling the audience that it’s okay to search. You don’t have to pursue a dream when your interest in it disappears. That’s not a betrayal of yourself or your peers or the people who look up to you. Likewise, the next thing you do doesn’t have to be a total capitulation to what polite society expects of you.
What we learn from Ria:
Ria is desperate to save Lena. But it’s not purely out of altruism. Part of Ria’s motivation is that if Lena gives up on being an artist, Ria feels like that means she’ll have to give up on her own aspirations. Which is what makes Raheela such an antagonist: Raheela is exactly who and what Ria fears becoming. And if Lena falls under Raheela’s spell, that means that Ria could, one day, eventually, do the same.
But there’s saving your sister because you think she needs you. And there’s controlling your sister because you can’t deal with your own insecurities. And Ria was, for most of Polite Society, doing the latter. Which is why Lena and everyone else was so upset with her. Even if Ria ended up being right, it doesn’t justify her initial behavior. We can put pressures and expectations on friends and family that they don’t deserve. So it’s good to be able to step back and recognize when we’re acting out due to fear and a lack of control.
For a majority of Polite Society, we’re seeing a Ria who is fearful because Lena’s indecision about pursuing art creates doubt in Ria about her own goals. So she compensates. And overcompensates. To the point of almost ruining everything. It’s only after she and Lena begin to come to terms with one another, having had some open conversations with one another, that Ria’s able to confidently and competently execute her jumping fury kick for the first time. It’s a byproduct of her confidence and maturing through experience.
The closing meal allows us to see the sisters fully reunited but different than before. Both have grown and let go of baggage. What lies ahead is unknown. It won’t be perfect. They won’t be perfect. But they have a little more trust in themselves. And each other. That will go a long way in letting them walk their own paths rather than giving in to what others want. Especially polite society.
The themes and meaning of Polite Society
Pursuing your dreams
Polite Society has three primary characters: Ria, Lena, and Raheela. All three of them represent a different relationship with personal dreams.
Ria is the youngest and fully invested in the dream of becoming the best professional stuntwoman.
Lena is a few years older but recently dropped out of art school after a crisis of faith in her ability to be a professional artist.
Raheela is decades older, a wealthy mother who never had the opportunity to pursue her dreams because she fell into the traditional path of marriage and parenthood.
It can be helpful to look at the characters as metaphors for states of being any person can go through. Ria, the passion of youth. Lena, the disillusionment of young adulthood. Raheela, the bitterness of midlife. It’s fitting that Raheela’s main goal is to clone herself so she can return to that youthful state and pursue her passions.
Even though Ria is the main hero and Raheela the main antagonist, Lena is the everyperson. She’s on the razor’s edge between passion and bitterness. She can continue a progressive, individual journey or give it up for a more conservative, traditional life.
A cog in the machine
Most people don’t get to pursue their dreams but that doesn’t mean they’ll have a bad life. It’s different from what they thought they wanted. That’s all. And we see this with Lena. She genuinely seems happy to be with Salim and more than willing to go live a life with him in Singapore. As much as she loved art and thought she wanted to be an artist, she’s okay with not having that.
Polite Society could have let the characters have that balance. Ria chooses passion. Lena chooses something else. And it’s okay. Both are happy. Instead, it takes a much more radical angle by having Lena’s path be a trap. Salim’s relationship with Lena is a front as he only wants to use her womb as part of an experiment to clone Raheela. This plot point takes on more thematic depth when we look at the implications of class. Lena is middle class. Salim and Raheela are exceptionally wealthy. Through that lens, we see the upper class preying upon the middle class. Selling them on a lie. “This will benefit you!” When, in reality, Lena’s nothing more than a means to an end.
Given the title Polite Society is a euphemism that refers to the upper class, it seems the film is criticizing everything Raheela embodies. The social impact the upper class has on everyone below. The way in which the upper class can rob people of their future by driving them into more traditional roles that only benefit the establishment.
Ria can’t save Lena on her own. She needs her friends. Clara and Alba play a huge role in events. When we look at this through the broader lens, it points to the collective pushing back against those at the top. Individuals can only get so far. But when people unite and work together, they’re much more powerful and capable.
Why is the movie called Polite Society?
“Polite society” is a euphemism that borders on idiom. It can simply refer to the upper class of people. But it can go beyond and refer specifically to concerns of behavior and etiquette. For example, polite society expects you to put a napkin on your lap when you eat dinner. If you’re in polite society, you probably don’t mention a fight you had with a family member. Instead, you keep the conversation light and fun.
With that in mind, we should expect Polite Society to involve ideas of social class, tradition, and social expectation. And that’s exactly what we see. Ria’s family is middle to upper-middle class. While the antagonist, Raheela, is exceptionally wealthy. Ria wants to go against the grain and be the best stuntwoman in the world. Of course she’s devastated at the thought of her sister, Lena, leaving behind the career of an artist to take a much more traditional path of marrying a rich man. And then the antagonist is Raheela, the embodiment of polite society—a socialite who is influential, focused on being a mom, and following classic traditions of setting her son up for marriage.
Ria and Raheela are on two ends of the spectrum. Ria represents youth and rebellion and individuality. While Raheela symbolizes the establishment and the traditional expectations for a woman in this society. Lena ends up torn between the two. At first, Lena’s aligned with Ria. But a crisis of faith in herself and her path causes her to seek comfort in the traditional, in Raheela and her son Salim. The battle between Ria and Raheela for Lena becomes a battle between a progressive view of women versus a conventional one.
The kicker is that Raheela is only using Lena. That’s because Raheela never got to forge her own path. Whatever dreams she had got pushed aside by marriage and parenthood. She had her equivalent of wanting to be a stuntwoman. Lena is a means to produce a Raheela clone that will get to live a progressive, individualistic life rather than a more conservative, sacrificing one. Like before, we can step back and view this as metaphorical, as commentary on clashes between older and younger generations. Something that is incredibly relevant in the political landscape 2023.
Important motifs in Polite Society
“I am the fury”
Ria has a speech she loves to repeat in seemingly every video she makes. Quote, “The gods whispered to the warrior, ‘You will not withstand the fury.’ The warrior whispers back, ‘I am the fury!’”
It’s actually a riff on a popular motivational quote that goes, “Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm.’ The warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’” Tom Brady actually posted that to his Facebook page in January of 2018. A variation appeared a few months later in Mission Impossible: Fallout.
Delivery Man: Fate whispers to the warrior.
Tom Cruise: A storm is coming.
Delivery Man: And the warrior whispers back.
Tom Cruise: I am the storm.
It suits Ria and Polite Society for several reasons. First, Ria’s a dreamer and wants to be a stuntperson in the movies. So it feels like something you’d hear in a big Marvel movie or some fantasy action blockbuster. You can imagine Ria picturing herself in the film, in the moment. It’s silly and youthful but also a sign of her vision and determination.
Then, of course, there’s the aspirational aspect. Ria becoming a stuntperson is not what’s expected of her. Most people in her life either humor her about it or outright doubt her. Very few believe she can do it, much less will do it. Because who does? How many of us know a professional stuntperson? It’s not a path that society encourages. So you can see “the gods” as a metaphor for “polite society” and the structures in place that not only discourage people from pursuing their goals but actively stop them. Which is exactly what Raheela embodies.
The jumping fury kick
After Ria delivers the “I am the fury” line, she attempts a jumping arc kick that looks like it would be awesome if she could ever land it. But she never does. Over and over, we see her crash to the ground. It’s not a hurdle she overcomes through physical training or pure determination. Instead, the film uses the kick as a sign of Ria’s own self doubt. As much as she expresses her belief in her dream, there’s part of her that’s fearful. Which is why she’s so incredibly adamant about Lena being an artist. If Lena can’t do that, Ria fears what it means for her own aspirations. As long as that doubt persists, it manifests in the inability to hit the jumping fury kick.
It’s a matter of conviction.
Knowing that Raheela embodies polite society and larger societal mechanisms, the very things creating the doubt and fear in Lena and Ria, it’s fitting that Ria finally lands the kick on Raheela. It’s her defeating “the gods” and finding that inner strength and belief that transcends what others think of her or want from her.
Eunice is a real stuntwoman. She serves a similar role to the jumping fury kick. Her silence overlaps with Ria’s own doubt in her future. Then her email comes after Ria has found that sense of conviction. Within the story, we’re told Eunice has been busy and was only just then able to respond. Which is perfectly reasonable. But artistically the reason you have that happen is to withhold the opportunity from the character until they’ve earned it by overcoming their journey’s primary challenges. It’s the reward.
Eunice being busy also allows the film to use Ria’s emails to Eunice as moments of self-reflection that serves almost like voice over or inner monologue, giving the viewer insight to Ria’s deeper feelings as she progresses through the story.
Questions & answers about Polite Society
Is Eunice Huthart a real person?
Yes! It’s an interesting career start. There was that show called American Gladiators. Eunice won a British version that was simply called Gladiators. For a couple of years, she competed in a bunch of events put on by Gladiators. She even briefly became one of the gladiators that challenged the contestants. All of that led to her joining the stunt team for GoldenEye. She became one of the A-list stuntwomen in Hollywood. One of the wildest facts is that Eunice is actually the godmother of Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. For about the last decade, she’s worked primarily as a stunt coordinator, most recently on Marvel’s Eternals.
Why did Raheela and Salim choose Lena?
There is a sci-fi element to Polite Society. Salim believes he can clone his mother. Why would he want to do this? Because she sacrificed the bulk of her adult life to take care of him. So the idea is Clone Raheela would get to live the life Real Raheela couldn’t. It seems, though, that it’s not easy to carry a clone baby to term. They’ve tried before and it didn’t work, resulting in the passing of Salim’s first wife.
So they’ve concocted some advanced tech to determine womb strength and ability to successfully bear a clone baby. Of all the women that came to the Eid Mubarak soirée, Lena, according to the program, was by far the top candidate.
Isn’t the plan a bit weird?
Kind of. Real Raheela will not live this new life. Her consciousness won’t transfer to the clone. They will be two separate people. The clone will just look exactly like Raheela. But whatever opportunities and successes the clone has won’t be Raheela’s. I guess she could have that vicarious satisfaction of watching “herself” live this different life. But there’s no guarantee how much Raheela will actually get to see. And by the time the clone has graduated college and gets to pursue a passion, start a career, do the things that Raheela didn’t get to do…how old will Raheela be?
Given how little Raheela actually gets from this, it is weird how adamant she is about it.
Does Lena go back to art school?
It’s purposefully left open-ended. Lena represents a chapter in life many people have to experience: the tension between dreams and reality. When we’re kids and teenagers, we begin to imagine what we want to do when we grow up. Be a baseball player? A politician? A lawyer? A doctor? A musician? A stuntperson? An artist?
But then you have your first year of law school. Or medical school. You have a coach who makes a sport miserable rather than fun. You move to Nashville and try to get some gigs. You move to Hollywood and do a bunch of auditions. Whatever it is, you realize you actually hate it. The day to day things you have to do to make this dream a reality are frustrating, taxing, and leave you sad.
That’s Lena. As much as she loved art. However good she was at it. The reality has her down in the dumps rather than energized and inspired. So. She quits.
Her arc isn’t about art school and being an artist. It’s about being comfortable with letting go of the first dream in order to discover the second. But having to deal with, as part of that process, the urge to give over to what polite society expects of you. “Just get a job and get married and settle down.” You don’t have to cling to a dream you’ve outgrown. And moving past that doesn’t make you a failure that has no other options.
Why does Kovacs help Ria?
Even though Kovacs bullies Ria, it seems there’s a degree of respect between them. Especially after the huge fight they have at school. Kovacs won but Ria didn’t make it easy. It’s a weird way to bond, but it’s still a bonding experience. And we learn that Kovacs is actually a very lonely person. Her father is never around. So one of the reasons she bullies Ria is probably out of jealousy over Ria having such close friends in Clara and Alba. Of course, the ostensible reason Kovacs joins the crew is because the girls promise to help her not fail a class. But the real reason is she wants to be part of the group.
Now it’s your turn
Have more unanswered questions about Polite Society? 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!