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How 'What Josiah Saw' survived its horribly tragic ending

Movie Reviews

How ‘What Josiah Saw’ survived its horribly tragic ending

Was this the right ending?

The ending of a movie can make it or break it. Great endings have saved middling movies while bad endings have ruined otherwise fantastic ones. The final moments of What Josiah Saw are powerful, but there is something slightly different about its final moments. It is the rare film that will still be recommended despite having an ending most people will dislike. 

***Major spoilers for What Josiah Saw. The article below deals with explicit sexual situations*** 

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What Josiah Saw is the story of the estranged Graham family who have been brought back together when an oil company wants to buy their farm. It is a creepy Southern gothic tale that is bleak and depressing. It is filled with sexual overtones and hints that Josiah (Robert Patrick, Peacemaker) has abused his three children. 

In the closing moments, we learn that Josiah died long ago and only exists in the mind of his son Tommy. Tommy, along with his siblings Eli (Nick Sthal, Fear the Walking Dead) and Mary (Kelli Garner, Lars and the Real Girl) killed Josiah after he raped and impregnated his daughter. He now “talks” to Tommy and has informed him that Eli and Mary have been committing unnatural acts together. 

It is revealed during the climax that Tommy’s wife had left him the year before. Apparently, he has suffered a mental breakdown and has returned to the old house in search of comfort. The visions of his dad and the accusations against his brother and sister are just part of that collapse.

Until What Josiah Saw ends with a flashback to a previously unseen encounter between Eli and Mary in which the two meet at a hotel and engage in carnal relations. 

The film throws a lot at its audience in its final moments. There is patricide, sexual abuse, and incest all within a ten minute period. It sounds like something straight out of a Category III movie. What Josiah Saw will leave its audiences disgusted, depressed, and angry. So why would anyone suggest watching it? 

What Josiah Saw is a fantastic movie with excellent character building that is rarely seen in cinema. It is also beautifully shot and creates an atmosphere that makes for captivating storytelling. It is broken down into distinct chapters that give an idea of the years of trauma the Grahams faced. 

Director Vincent Grashaw takes a huge risk in the final moments. There is not just the revelation that Eli and Mary slept together. It is a scene filled with lust and passion between a brother and a sister who are enjoying their time together. It is a stomach churning moment.

what josiah saw

But it also showcases the beauty of the writing. As revolting as the ending is, there is a sadness to it. It is not a twist done for shock value or to save a weak script. It is the natural culmination of what has already been a tragic story. Yes, it is shocking, but there is also meaning behind the moment. What Josiah Saw is such a heartbreaking tale that it makes sense that it ends the way it does. 

By the time the final credits rolled, I found myself trying to justify what Eli and Mary had done. The abuse from their childhood carried over to their adult years. They were constantly in search of something that would make them feel comfortable with their lives. Due to their unhealthy upbringing, they found solace in each other.  

What Josiah Saw is a moving film that will keep audiences engrossed the entire time. The ending is a powerful moment that will anger everyone. It is so impacting that it will make many turn on the entire movie. However, the rest is so good, it will have those same people reevaluating the entire story.

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