The Turning: the ending, explained

The Turning

The Turning is a 2020 film which follows the life of Kate Mandell (Mackenzie Davis), a governess who comes to stay in Fairchild Estate in 1994 to take care of two orphans whose parents were killed in a car accident.

Be careful! The article contains spoilers.

The Mysteries of the Fairchild Estate

The movie starts with Miss Jessel, the previous governess, running off and attacked by a man. She is looked over by Flora, the daughter.

In the present time, Kate is preparing her departure to the estate and her best friend encourages her. Before leaving, she goes to meet her mother, who is in a psychiatric center because of her delusions. There, she gives Kate a portrait of her.

Kate finds her way inside the eerily situated castle like estate and is greeted by Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper. She tells Kate about the estate and a little about what happened.

Flora and Miles and the House

Kate later finds Flora in a barn, and like each other. Flora shows her around the home and the rooms, warning her of one. As she puts Flora to bed and closes the window, she sees a ghost reflection in the glass, which disappears just as instantly.

Kate’s own room is creepy, with a life-sized figure of the kid’s grandmother and a boutique room for stitching. At night, while she tries to sleep, Kate hears some thudding and goes to check. She reaches the room she was warned of and sees that the window is open. As she closes it, the main door slams shut. She hysterically opens it and sees a boy standing outside.

The boy is Miles, the brother, who’s back from boarding school.

The following days at the estate

Next morning, Kate finds out that Miles had been expelled from school. He is also misbehaved and arrogant and seems cold towards her and she feels afraid of him. In the following days, she had been on the receiving end of non-funny pranks by him and feels she needs to leave.

Kate also finds out about the manager of the estate, Quint, who too died mysteriously from a riding incident. She finds Miss Jessel’s diary with pages filled with adoration for Flora but many pages about how she was harassed by Quint too. Kate starts feeling an ominous presence around the house and also starts seeing ghostly visions, especially of a young woman asking for help.

After an incident with the kids, she leaves but an emotional talk with her best friend makes her realize her of her promise to Flora; that she’ll not leave like the others.

Escaping from the ghostly house with the kids

Kate has been disturbed by the visions, the nightmares and afraid of Miles. One morning, Mrs. Grose gives her an envelope in the kitchen which her mother sent. It’s opened and there are dark sketches and incomprehensible drawings. Mrs. Grose comments from the door that she hopes her mother’s condition isn’t genetic.

The same day, Kate has visions of Miss Jessel being harassed by Quint and Quint’s ghost attacking her next. Miss Grose comes and tells her that she took care that Quint died, and is herself pushed down the floor by the ghost.

Kate runs to get Flora and a terrified, reluctant Miles and gets them in the car to run off. She drives fast and just as the gates of the estate open, drives off in the darkness, a lone car on the road.

…And now the “actual” ending

Just then, the scene transports back to the kitchen, Kate holding the drawings and Mrs. Grose commenting. The scene before was just an elaborate vision. She goes to find Flora and Miles and sees Quint’s ghost again, pressing the children that they saw it too.

Flora runs away and Miles calls her delusional before trotting away. Kate is then transported to her mother’s psychiatric center, her mother with her back turned towards her. As the figure turns, Kate lets out a huge scream and the movie ends.

How the end is interpreted

The Turning definitely left an ambiguous ending and honestly, I was confused. But after rewatching the last 10-15 minutes, it suddenly strikes. Especially after Miss Grose’s comment. Is Kate herself the threat? Are there even any ghosts? What even happened?

In an interview with Collider about the ending, director Sigismondi says that: “I didn’t want to spoon-feed the audience. I was hoping that people can take away different things from the movie.”

But for her, the ending is “…the thematic idea of being locked in with this trauma that you’re dealing with… But I don’t want to say too much about it.”