SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains absolutely massive spoilers for the end of Edgar Wright's Baby Driver. If you have not yet seen the film, and don't wish to know any details about the movie, please bookmark this link and return to this feature after your screening!
It's been a nice long four year wait, but finally writer/director Edgar Wright has a new film in theaters -- and it's a stunner. Baby Driver is an incredible piece of daring and mind-blowing art that uses music unlike anything you've seen before -- and it's without question one of the best movies of 2017. As such, it offers up plenty of different discussions topic, regarding its bombastic action sequences and groovy soundtrack, but the most obvious subject to investigate is its mysterious ending.
What Happens At The End Of The Film
Baby Driver steers into its final turn shortly after the final showdown with Buddy (Jon Hamm), as Baby (Ansel Elgort) and Debora (Lily James) drive towards what they hope is finally a road to freedom. Baby, in the passenger seat, is dazed and still slowly adjusting to the fact that he is now mostly deaf thanks to Buddy's gun. Over the stereo we hear the sound of Sky Ferreira's cover of The Commodores' "Easy," and Debora asks if it's really Baby's mom who is singing -- revealing that she has put his cassette in the tape deck. "She has a beautiful voice," Debora says, and Baby replies, "I know," absorbing the sound by putting his hand on the door speaker.
Sadly, the dream of driving off into the sunset is short-lived, as while crossing a bridge they run into a cadre of police cars and officers who have been waiting for their arrival. Debora's instinct kicks in to throw the car into reverse, but Baby hits the brakes and pulls the key from the ignition. He recognizes that he can't pull her into his world by making her his accomplice, kisses her, and exits the car to give himself up.
A montage then follows Baby as he makes his way through the judicial system -- as we not only see him get his mugshot taken and be processed, but also hear the testimony of key witnesses -- including the woman whose car he stole, the post office clerk, and his foster father, Joe (with the sign language translator voiced by legendary director Walter Hill). A judge sentences Baby to 25 years of incarceration, with the possibility of parole in five. He spends his time in prison mopping floors, watching TV, and reading a postcard from Debora telling him that she can't wait until they reunite.
As we saw earlier in the movie, there is then what appears to be a black and white fantasy sequence as Baby is exiting the prison, but the scene fades to color as Baby and Debora are reunited in a red and white convertible -- and after the revelation of Baby's real name (Miles) and a drive off toward the horizon with a rainbow in the sky, you're left to wonder if what you're seeing is actual reality. To help clear things up, we asked Ansel Elgort, Lily James, and Edgar Wright all individually about the finale... and they all surprisingly had very different things to say about Baby Driver's ending.
What Ansel Elgort Thinks Happens
If you're thinking that the end of Baby Driver showcases the ultimate fate of Baby and Debora, then you're thoughts go strictly against those of Ansel Elgort. It turns out that he is firmly in the "it's not actually real" camp. At the Los Angeles press day for the film in mid-June, I asked the actor about the ending during a one-on-one interview, and he left no ambiguity regarding his thoughts on the way the movie finishes. Said Elgort,
It's a fantasy. It's definitely a fantasy... I think he makes it pretty clear -- 'Don't wait for me, don't worry about it,' but she's like 'I will wait for you, and I can't wait to eventually listen to every 'Baby' song we fantasized about; I don't care if you're in prison.' So then he imagines, the black and white, eventually when I get out we're going to ride off into the sunset together.
Essentially, Ansel Elgort thinks that there is a future for Baby and Debora, but that it's not really what we see play out in the final scenes. Instead, it's a fantastical vision of what that eventual reunion may be -- hence the use of the black and white.
For the actor, the key element in all of it is the idea of Debora potentially waiting a full two and a half decades for Baby to be given his freedom. Ansel Elgort was not stifled in his thoughts on the matter, and explained during our interview why the postcard is really the key element in the ending:
It's that Baby knows that Debora is going to wait for him. With the postcard he got from her... we did one take that was very emotional that wasn't in the movie because it was too indulgent. I really broke down in the prison, because I thought about how much that would mean to him. He got into all this trouble, and he's in prison now -- he's in there forever, basically. For so long -- 25 years. He doesn't know. I wouldn't expect someone to wait 25 years for me! I wouldn't expect my girlfriend of five years to do that, my current girlfriend. I would be like, 'Yo, I fucked up; live your life! You don't have to wait for me for 25 fucking years.' And then if she said, 'I really want to,' I would be extremely touched, and I felt that as Baby.
On a more macro level, Ansel Elgort also told me that he had a heavy appreciation for the end of Baby Driver just in that it's a film that features legitimate consequences for its criminal hero's action. He told me that he sees something inherently phony about movie criminals getting away with the job and living happily ever after, and loved that Edgar Wright's film was willing to have his character turn himself in. He explained,
I think the moral of the story at the end is that crime doesn't pay, and Baby gets in trouble! And I've always liked that, because at the end of every movie like this they drive off and they're going to Mexico and somehow it's a happy ending. Everything went perfectly. Or someone dies. It's usually not, 'He's in jail.' Of course you've got to go to jail! Everyone goes to jail who does that. If you're a bank robber... they guy who we talked to, Joe Loya, who was like our criminal consultant, he robbed tons of banks. He said, 'I always knew I'd eventually get caught. You either get shot or you're caught.' But the ride is so amazing. So it's nice in this movie to depict it the right way.
So that's one vote for "It's all a fantasy." But what are Lily James' feelings on the conclusion? Read on to find out!
What Lily James Likes About The Ending
Ansel Elgort may think that the end of Baby Driver is just fantasy and that the idea of the getaway isn't realistic, but Lily James actually expressed different sentiments when I sat down with her for an interview. In addition to recognizing the particular ambiguity about the reality of the movie's ending, she also expressed that a part of her wishes that they could have avoided the whole prison thing and gone through with their original plans while being on the run. Said James,
I think that I wish they could have driven off into the sunset! But I think the ending that Edgar has written is so much more interesting, dramatic, and powerful. I think that actually seeing him in prison and adapt to the loss of his hearing -- finding the rhythm of the prison. And then getting the postcards and not knowing if it's a dream or reality. I think it's got more of an old school ending. It's a romantic ending to a gangster story! It really crosses so many genres, but comes together in a way that feels so smooth and sexy and cool.
At the end of Baby Driver, what you ultimately want for the lead characters is a happy ending, and whether it's real or fantasy, that is ultimately what the movie delivers (you have to also remember that this is a fictional story about fictional people). As Lily James notes, it's really left up to the audience to decide whether or not Baby and Debora will reunite after he gets out of prison - but regardless of that, the film is still able to play out the "romantic ending to a gangster story."
So now you've heard what the stars of Baby Driver had to say about it, but what about the man whose mind is responsible for the entire world in which the movie exists? Continue to the next page for Edgar Wright's thoughts on the matter!
What Edgar Wright Is Actually Doing With Baby Driver's Ending
In the making of a movie, the director is king, and the general idea is that what audiences see on the big screen is the complete vision of the filmmaker. Because of this, when a narrative ends with ambiguity, it is generally the director's opinion that is held in highest esteem. So how does Edgar Wright feel that audiences should be interpreting the reality or fantasy of the ending? The answer is that it doesn't really matter, and all that's important is that there are no right or wrong interpretations, and that there is a conversation going on. Wright told me,
I think the end scene is up for interpretation. And I sort of learned quickly through the test screening process that I should let people interpret it how they want. I think it's an important thing with movies where you don't have to state your actual intention because nobody's response to it is wrong. I think that's a good thing to do; you don't want to have anybody say, 'No, you're wrong, you read that wrong.' It's better if you have two different interpretations.
So whether you think the Baby Driver ending is reality or make believe, what's really ultimately the most important thing is that you're thinking about it and engaging with the material (on that note, thanks for reading this feature!)
During the interview, Edgar Wright also detailed why he made the decision that he did to have Baby turn himself in -- rather than either get killed Bonnie and Clyde-style or live on a la True Romance. Evidently a prison sentence was always waiting for the titular hero at the end of the story essentially because it was the required ending for everything that had been set up earlier in the movie. The writer/director explained,
It was always the ending that he gave himself up... So my thought was this. I felt what we never see in these movies is the idea that it's him doing something responsible and selfless, because I think he realizes... it's paying off what Joe has said to him, 'You don't belong in this world.' It starts to hit him, like what [Kevin] Spacey says in the elevator: 'It's a good thing you like driving, because you're going to have your foot on the gas for the next 25 years.' When he's sitting there and they're surrounded by the police, he starts to realize, 'Why should she be part of this? Why should Debora be a fugitive when she was only dragged into this like six hours ago.' There's the moment where he says, 'I have to leave,' and she says, 'I'm coming with you,' and that's her decision. But still I think Baby realizes this is on me, this is not on you. So he gives himself up, and you don't see it in the film, but I'm sure part of his thing is she didn't know anything about it, not to implicate her in anything else. He would take the wrap for her, which is sort of a hugely romantic gesture -- 'I'm going to say I hit Buddy.'
Perhaps my favorite part of the interview, however, was the little heads up that Edgar Wright gave me about the particular meteorological phenomenon that we see in the final scene. Because every detail matters in Wright's movies, there actually is a very specific reason why we see the rainbow, and it's because of the Dolly Parton song that the post office worker tells Baby about:
Do you understand what the rainbow in the last scene means? Remember the teller tells him about the Dolly Parton quote? He says 'Dolly Parton, I like her.' And she says, 'Everybody wants happiness, nobody wants pain; but there can't be a rainbow without a little rain.' He goes through incarceration to get to the rainbow.
How did you interpret the end of Baby Driver? Do you think that we're seeing Baby actually get released from prison to be with Debora, or do you think it's just a vision that exists in Baby's mind? Did you get the little rainbow Easter egg that Edgar Wright left? Hit the comments section below with your thoughts!