Irrational Man (2015 Movie) Ending Explained

This post includes a brief plot summary and an explanation about the ending of the film Irrational Man (2015). Beware of spoilers.

irrational man 2015 ending explained

Directed by Woody Allen, the 2015 comedy-drama stars Joaquin Phoenix as Abe Lucas and Emma Stone as Jill Pollard.

Irrational Man (2015) – Plot Summary

A small town college welcomes its newest faculty member: Abe Lucas. He’s a philosophy professor. At the university, Abe meets two women: Rita Richards (a chemistry professor) and Jill Pollard (a student). Both are in committed relationships, Rita is married and Jill has a boyfriend (Roy).

In order to cope with depression, Abe drinks heavily. As he sees no meaning to life, Abe often contemplates suicide. One of his students (Jill) takes an interest on Abe. The professor is aware of his student’s feelings, but decides to keep things platonic. Meanwhile, Rita also pursues Abe aggressively. One day, she shows up at Abe’s door and tries to seduce him. However, Abe’s depression made him impotent. Therefore, he’s not able to have sex with Rita.

During a casual lunch together, Abe and Jill overhear a woman crying about a judge’s decision. He’s making the woman lose custody of her children. The professor finds the judge unethical and his actions revolting. Upon further reflection, Abe decides to help the woman. In order to do that, the professor plots to murder the judge.

After finding a new purpose in life, Abe changes into a completely different person. First, Abe’s depression went away. Second, the professor regains his libido. As a result, Abe decides to have sex with Rita. After the act, he steals her lab keys. Abe is planning to kill the judge with cyanide. At this point, the professor had studied the judge’s daily routine to the teeth. Therefore, Abe figured out that his best shot was to poison the judge’s orange juice and so he did.

The judge’s death had a profound impact on Abe. The professor became a much happier person. As a result, Abe and Jill start seeing each other romantically. However, Roy is not happy about Jill dating other people and decides to break up with her. Everything in Abe’s life runs smoothly up until the moment Jill and Rita start to suspect Abe. The missing lab key and Abe’s presence in the chemistry lab led Rita to formulate a theory: Abe stole the lab’s cyanide to kill the judge. Although Rita has her own suspicions about Abe being a murderer, she still fantasizes about running away to Europe with him.

Despite of not liking Rita’s theory, Jill starts to suspect Abe too. Therefore, she decides to clear her doubts by breaking into Abe’s house. Jill gets in through a window and finds some notes in Abe’s bedroom. At this point, she realizes that Abe had strong intentions of killing the judge. Upon finding clear evidence against Abe, Jill decides to confront the professor. Abe confesses to the crime and Jill breaks up with him. After learning that an innocent man is going to jail for Abe’s crime, Jill rushes the professor to turn himself to the authorities.

Abe is desperate. The professor doesn’t want to let go of his freedom. Therefore, Abe plots to murder Jill too. Just like with the judge, Abe studies Jill’s routine. As a result, the professor decided to sabotage the elevator that Jill frequently uses after her piano lessons. However, Abe fails to push Jill into the elevator, instead, he’s the one who ends up falling into it. After the incident, Jill gets back with Roy and reflects upon her short-lived romance with Abe.

Irrational Man (2015) Ending Explained

What happened in the end? Abe’s plan was to kill Jill and make it look like an accident. Therefore, he sabotages the elevator so he can push Jill into it. However, due to an ironic twist of fate, Abe is the one who ends up falling into the broken elevator. But how did things escalate to this point? What drove Abe to kill Jill?

First of all, Abe never had any intentions of confessing the crime. Now, that Abe has found a new direction in life, the man doesn’t want to lose his freedom. When the professor confessed the crime to Jill, he was hoping that she would agree with his actions. However, that did not happen and things took a different turn. Jill went from being love with Abe to being scared of him.

Upon the horrific discovery, Jill’s reaction was to rush Abe to turn himself to the authorities. However, Abe was not very happy with Jill’s insistence. Therefore, he plots to kill her. Besides Jill, no one really knows what happened to judge Spangler. Rita has her own theory that Abe killed the judge, but she doesn’t seem very bothered by the idea.

After almost getting away with Spangler’s murder, Abe developed a new obsession: committing the perfect crime. Actually, Abe doesn’t enjoy killing people, he’s not a psychopath. However, he has become the type of person that won’t hesitate to end people that are on his way. At the moment, that person is Jill.

Desperate Abe is a man who’s willing to do anything to keep his freedom. This includes letting an innocent man go to prison and killing his student / girlfriend. However, he does not succeed. As obnoxious as Jill is, the girl is smart and has some good instincts. When Jill saw Abe outside of her piano class, she already knew that something was off. That gave her time to fight Abe and escape death. Nonetheless, was Abe really the bad guy in the story?

At the time, Abe did something he thought it was right. When the professor decided to kill the judge, he convinced himself that Spangler was pure evil. However, was the judge really that bad? Who knows. The woman’s testimony alone is not enough evidence to condemn the man. She was simply stating her opinion about what was happening.

To label Abe as a bad person based on his poor actions doesn’t help the audience to understand what kind of man the main character of Irrational Man is. First of fall, there are two Abes in this story: depressed Abe and happy Abe. Ironically, happy Abe is far more dangerous than depressed Abe. Why? Happy Abe has a purpose in life, whereas the depressed one doesn’t. Planning to kill someone gave Abe a purpose to live. When he succeeded at it, that gave him a reason to be happy. After learning about judge Spangler’s death, Abe was a new man. He started to enjoy what regular non depressed folks do: food, sex and and the simple joy of being alive.

Now, was Jill a real victim in this story? Abe did try to kill her. But does that make Jill a victim? The girl basically threw herself at Abe. Let’s not forget that Jill knew that Abe was more than just eccentric. She knew from the very beginning that Abe was a hot mess, that’s what drew her to him in the first place. Instead of trying to accept Abe, Jill saw him as a poor man that needed her help. Having said that, her final words about the incident are just an excuse to make her look less foolish.

Final Thoughts

Irrational Man is not a perfect film, but it’s a noteworthy watch for its plot’s originality. The only thing that bothered me was Abe’s death. In my opinion, if he actually got away with murder, Irrational Man would’ve been a much more iconic film.

The female characters in Irrational Man are a little bit on the bland side. Unfortunately, both Jill and Rita are borderline pathetic. These ladies are using Abe to be someone that they are not and that’s sad. Both have partners that love them. Nonetheless, Jill and Rita are willing to throw everything away for a guy like Abe (a hot mess).

Although, Jill and Rita are not the most likeable characters in Irrational Man, they are real. There are people like them in the world. Personally, I enjoyed that these two characters were not so perfect, because that makes their motivations more relatable. Their desire to escape who they are is legitimate, but their methods are questionable.

Despite of Abe’s flaws, I would still pick him as my favourite character in the entire film. He’s a honest character. Abe never hid the fact that he’s not okay. During his affairs with Rita and Jill, Abe did not deceive them and was always very clear about what they could get from him (not much). His major flaw was his ego. Abe trusted his own narrative of killing Spangler and making the world a better place. Then, he became a little vain when he almost got away with the perfect murder.

Although, Abe starts as a man who hit rock bottom and lost his joie de vivre, he did not give up. When Abe found a chance to feel inspired about life again, he grabbed it without hesitation and made sure that no one stood on his way. Having said that, Abe had something that Jill and Rita did not possess: a direction in life.

Overall, Irrational Man is a film that makes its viewers laugh and feel guilty about it. The film’s premise is about a man who wants to kill another man in order to make him feel alive. Twisted or ironic? Maybe both. Personally, I believe Irrational Man is the type of film that generates a lot of polarizing opinions. It’s a little dark, when you find yourself laughing at another person’s death. However, that’s what makes the film so refreshing, it pushes people’s buttons.


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