Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel in News of the World

News of the World is a Tom Hanks western (which hit theaters in December 2020 and became available on video on demand in January 2021) about a former Civil War captain, Captain Kidd, who travels through Texan towns to deliver the news. On his journey, he meets Johanna, wonderfully played by Helena Zengel. The film follows Kidd and Johanna as they face many dangers while he tries to get Johanna to her only living relatives in Castroville, Texas. The News of the World ending showed Kidd and Johanna reaching the end of their journey, but not how either of them initially expected.

SPOILER ALERT - We're about to discuss News of The World and its ending in more specifics, so read no further if you haven't seen it yet!

News of the World is already getting Oscar-buzz, and Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel are gaining a lot of praise for their performances. The film is a Western for everyone, especially those who don’t consider themselves Western film fans, because at the heart of this film is Johanna and Captain Kidd’s bond and how it transforms both of them. The News of the World finale gave viewers a happy ending, hope for Johanna and Kidd’s world, and the world in general. Let’s examine how the News of the World ending earned its happily ever after.

Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel in News of the World

What Happened At The End Of News Of The World

Kidd and Johanna arrive at her aunt (Winsome Brown) and uncle's (Neil Sandilands) home. Immediately, Johanna protests. She doesn’t want to stop here, she wants to continue with Kidd, reading the news and getting dime-ahs (what Johanna calls dimes). Kidd explains to Johanna’s aunt and uncle how they’ll have to show patience with Johanna because she’s slowly readjusting to western civilization. Her uncle insists that Johanna will have to work, and Johanna’s aunt starts rehashing what happened to Johanna’s parents and sister.

Kidd leaves and continues on to San Antonio. He finally goes to see his wife’s grave, and with some help from a life-long friend, Mr. Branholme (Bill Camp), he’s able to forgive himself for the war, all the bloodshed, and not being there for his wife when she died. He then returns to Castroville for Johanna. He tells her that he made a mistake bringing her there. She belongs with him.

After some reluctance, Johanna joins Kidd and they leave. Flash forward: Kidd and Johanna are entertaining a new audience with their stories. Kidd reads as Johanna adds sound effects. Kidd concludes by introducing himself and Johanna Kidd. They take a bow.

Helena Zengel and Tom Hanks in News of the World

The Role Of Hope In News Of The World

The News of the World ending gave such a hopeful outcome for Johanna and Kidd. After all their struggles to get to Castroville (and general life struggles), the pair has found some peace and happiness with each other.

In an interview with Variety, News of the World director, Paul Greengrass, said he “wanted to explore what the road towards hope looks like.” The entire journey of Johanna and Captain Kidd is one of Kidd trying to do this good deed in hopes that Johanna can finally escape this cycle of tragedy and violence. In many ways, Kidd sees Johanna as an opportunity to free one of them from their demons. However, by the end of News of the World, it’s not about freeing Johanna, it’s about giving them both an opportunity for a new, hopeful, better life.

Tom Hanks’ character is a beacon of hope for those he brings the news. He chooses the stories that he reads to them, and even when he reads stories about death, etc., he makes sure to read positive stories as well. Hope is a constant thread that runs through News of the World. Despite violent and gruesome pasts, poverty, divisions, and ailments, there is always hope that things can be better one day.

Tom Hanks in News of the World

Tom Hanks’ Captain Kidd And The Healing Power of Stories

In a King5 interview, Tom Hanks said that Kidd’s job is to enlighten his listeners. Part of this enlightenment is to help them heal from the scars of the past. In Vanity Fair, Greengrass added that in a “singular, small way [Kidd] is a thread who connects one community to another.” There is some power and respect Kidd has because he keeps these people informed.

We also see throughout News of the World that Kidd’s audience isn’t just the poor and working white class. The audience varies from town to town, and sometimes it’s a mixed bunch of people in one reading. Kidd also caters his attire and approach according to the audience. Greengrass told Deadline how he wanted to explore themes of healing with News of the World. The film takes place in 1870, five years after the Civil War has ended, and America still hasn’t quite healed after it.

Neighbors are still very much divided, but on a small scale (as Greengrass stated) Kidd is able to lessen this division by showing that they’re all dealing with the same struggles, and how some of these stories offer hope for the future. Kidd's able to offer these people a temporary sense of freedom from their burden. These stories do the same for him as well. The news and the communities he brings it to are his way of staying grounded, and having a purpose and connection to the world, so he doesn’t completely isolate himself from humanity.

Helen Zengel and Tom Hanks in News of the World

Johanna And Captain Kidd's Search For Home

Johanna and Kidd are both without a family. Johanna lost her original family when they were murdered by the Kiowa tribe. Then she lost the tribe when they were murdered by settlers. Captain Kidd lost his family when his wife died, and they had no children. Kidd and Johanna are also kind of outsiders in this world, in general. Johanna is not quite German, not exactly Kiowa, and definitely not a Southerner. She’s something in between, so she belongs to no group. Kidd is an older man who has some respect within the communities he reads stories to, but to others, he’s an old man with no value, which is shown with how some people treat him.

Kidd doesn’t want to return home because he doesn’t want to reconcile with his past and his deceased wife. His former home no longer feels like his true home. He’s now a nomad. With each other, Johanna and Kidd understand one another (despite language barriers) and fit together. They find a home not with a physical place but with each other.

Tom Hanks in News of the World

How News Of The World Tells Modern Stories In 1870

The topics in News of the World, like poverty, epidemics, racism, fake news, corrupt leaders, and so on, are all stories that remain relevant in today's society. We see the idea of “fake news” when one of the leaders tries to force Kidd to read propaganda, and there are threads of racism all throughout the film, from the lynching of a black man, to the prejudice displayed about the Kiowa people and Native Americans.

One of the first stories Kidd reads in News of the World is about various illnesses killing massive amounts of people. In the Deadline interview, Greengrass addressed how the themes fit with today’s landscape.

I wanted to make a film on those themes, healing and redemption. I loved the book and it seemed to speak to today. Doesn’t matter where you are on the spectrum or what you believe, I think everybody feels a sense of troubling division and dis-unity. We feel it in our country and I’m sure you feel it in yours. It’s a sense of crisis, uncertain tides, waters going in all direction. How do we heal and unite toward a sense of belonging?

He added in an Entertainment Weekly interview that the story feels relevant because everyone is searching for better days. This makes the optimistic ending so much more powerful, because it addresses some of the same problems facing people right now, and shows that through hardship, there can be hope, joy, forgiveness, and unity.

News of the World is available to rent on Video on Demand. Rent it here.

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