“Emily the Criminal” explores the basic needs of any human and shows to what extent humans can go for it without compromising themselves. There are good and bad deeds that we do in life, but sometimes it is not in our hands. Occasionally, we prefer to be ourselves, and the line that separates good and bad starts to dissolve. This might make us “criminals” at times, but not in the traditional sense of the word. Each of us is fighting his or her own battle, and not always do we get to be righteous. Because in the end, the fight is for a living. And in a fight or a war, everything is fair, isn’t it?
What Happens In The ‘Emily the Criminal’ Film?
Emily Benetto is looking for a job. But as a college dropout with a criminal record and $70,000 in student debt, she is unable to find one that offers a higher salary. She only has a contractual catering job. Even when her friend Liz tries to set her up for an interview, Emily realizes that the boss interviewing her intends to find out about her crimes before going any further. Amidst her personal struggles, a friend of hers from her catering job, Javier, gives her a number in return for a favor. He tells her that it will help her make money. This number brings her to a guy named Youcef.
Youcef, along with his cousin Khalil, runs a dummy shopping business based on illegal credit cards. She can earn money, but there is a chance of her getting caught. Youcef realizes that Emily is good at her job; he teaches her how to make credit cards. He gives her the machine along with a taser in case she gets into trouble. He also tells her to not go to the same store twice in at least one week. One day, she visits Youcef at his office, where he introduces her to his cousin Khalil.
One night, she is attacked by a couple of thugs, a guy, and a girl, at her house. They take all her money, along with the dog her friend Liz had left to care for while she was away, and leave. As the thugs are about to escape in their car, Emily, although in shock, manages to take her taser and follow them to their car. There, she tases the guy and warns the girl to never return for her. She takes the money and the dog and returns home.
After Liz returns, she throws a party at her house, where Emily is present. Youcef, too, arrives sometime later. At the party, they get close to each other and end up sleeping at Emily’s place. The next day, Youcef takes Emily to an apartment that he is planning to buy. Then, as a favor, he asks if she can accompany him to his mother’s place. After they visit her, Khalil too arrives there and shows them a video of Emily visiting the same store twice in the same week. He holds Emily responsible for risking their entire operation, but Youcef defends her. Later, she finds out that Youcef has had a fight with Khalil. Khalil has also denied paying Youcef the money he is owed with which he had planned to buy the apartment. Youcef thus decides to rob Khalil.
Another interview arrives, again thanks to Liz, and again during the interview, she finds out that she will be hired as an intern without being paid for at least 4 or 5 months. Frustrated and desperate, Emily decides to help Youcef rob Khalil. But when they arrive at the office, they don’t find anything. It seems that Khalil has shifted the base of operations somewhere else and emptied Youcef’s business account as well. All lost, Youcef starts blaming Emily for his present state. But Emily doesn’t accept it at all, and rather than trying to prove herself right, she convinces him to face Khalil for what he has done.
They arrive at his house in a car and are able to send Khalil’s men away before going inside. They enter Khalil’s room but cannot find him. Suddenly, Khalil hits Youcef in the head from the back with a blunt object and brings him down. He then attacks Emily and has her by the throat, but Emily manages to pull out a knife from her pocket and plunges it into his stomach. Khalil is down on the ground. She holds the knife against his throat and asks him for the money, which he, hurt badly, says is in the fridge. She gives him the phone and tells him to call an ambulance. She then collects the money, takes Youcef, and brings him to the car outside. Youcef is barely responding. Emily thus makes up her mind to leave with the money. Apologizing to Youcef, Emily takes the bag of money and leaves on foot.
A few days later, cops breach into Emily’s rented apartment, but she is nowhere to be found. We then see her somewhere in South America, where she always wanted to go. She has started her own business, dummy shopping.
The Convict and Her Black Dress
Emily was once convicted of a crime as well as receiving a DUI recently. She also has a $70,000 student debt to clear. She is looking for a job and is pulling her expenses off of a contractual catering job. In short, her life is full of struggles, and not anyone has ever been there for her, really, except her stepdad, who lives somewhere else. She is in desperate need of money so that at least she can clear her debt. So when her friend Javier tells her that she can make $200 in an hour, she seizes the opportunity. Even though she doubts the whole thing, she decides to go for it as she needs the money. It seems that her lifestyle has made her take as many chances as they come to her. What she is doing is basically a crime, but the harshest fact is that as long as it is money, it doesn’t matter where it comes from. She had stopped making portraits, which was a way for her to express herself. And what’s important is that she had earned only $200 and was told by Youcef that her next job would bring her $2,000. This assurance itself was enough for her to let go of her inhibitions, even if a little . And now that she had again been able to earn some money and knew that she could earn more, she relaxed a bit. Even the assurance of money brings peace. Peace, in turn, calls for a hobby, and for her, a hobby means her portraits. This is why we see her draw while listening to music right after her first job.
Later on, when she is attacked, it is clear from her face that even though she is admitting that she is scared, she isn’t going to give away what she has earned, even if it means risking her life. At this point, she isn’t scared of dying as much as she is of being broke. Death isn’t really a consideration for her as much as being financially stable is. That’s because death is uncertain. Being financially stable is in our hands. We would rather die with money in our safe than live without a safe at all.
Getting her money back after fighting off the thugs seems to have given Emily a new vigor that she isn’t afraid to show off. At Liz’s party, when Emily is told that a guy is looking for her, she immediately realizes that it is Youcef, and she immediately takes off her jacket, revealing her black dress. This is a sign of her confidence as well as the fact that she, as a woman who hasn’t yet come face to face with her carnal needs due to her financial burdens, is now starting to spread her wings. Even her expressions make it evident that she is giving way to her hormones. This doesn’t mean that it is out of her control, but rather that she is deliberately giving in. It’s not about Youcef here. It is about Emily coming face-to-face with herself as a woman. And the act that follows further strengthens her role as a female, especially considering all that she has been through.
Illegal, but Nobody is Harmed
When Youcef takes Emily to his mother, she tells Emily how Youcef has promised her an apartment. A successful businessman; this is what he has promised his mother that he will become. And she believes it will work with all her heart. “He does whatever it takes.” However, the truth is that Youcef has been carrying on an illegal business. Thus, he is breaking his mother’s trust . He is supposed to be God’s gift to her. However, the business hasn’t harmed anyone. And the fact that Youcef is buying her mother the apartment takes everything back to the same thing we have mentioned earlier. As long as it’s money, it doesn’t matter where it comes from.
Then, when Youcef’s cousin Khalil arrives at the table and charges her with a mistake that could get them all in trouble, Youcef defends her. Clearly, Youcef, too, has taken a liking to Emily, which is further stressed when later on, we find him meeting Emily after having fought with Khalil. Youcef’s intention to rob Khalil might not be entirely based on revenge for not giving him the money Khalil owed him but for disrespecting Emily. But she isn’t willing to be a part of the robbery. However, after she leaves the interview midway and finds out that she will be hired as an intern, she decides that the only way to make herself useful is to help Youcef. Here, it might be said that this urge of Emily’s to make money is not because she needs it. In fact, more than money being needed, she needs to prove to herself, and whoever is watching, that she too has the right to do something purposeful and live life on her own terms.
A Cut With a Cost
When Youcef and Emily arrive at the latter’s office, they find it empty. They realize that Khalil has shifted their base of operations to someplace else, and their whole office is left empty. Youcef’s business account has also been emptied of all his money. And as expected, with nowhere to go and unable to figure out what to do, he turns to Emily, blaming her for the same thing that Khalil had blamed her for (going to the same store twice in one week). This is human nature. Someone or something enrages us, and we vent out anger on whatever is near to us. It may or may not have been Emily’s fault, especially since she didn’t do it deliberately, although she should have remembered the rule. But it didn’t matter to Youcef then. And whatever happened between him and Khalil wasn’t due to Emily going to the store twice. It is Youcef’s own decision to confront Khalil that has led Khalil to desert Youcef, something Youcef didn’t expect. And now that Youcef has no one else to vent his anger on, he vents it out on Emily.
Emily, on the other hand, keeps her cool. At this point, it is Emily who takes the lead. Rather than defending herself, she tells Youcef, as well as the audience, a truth about life, i.e., people will just keep talking and talking until we make the rules ourselves. Emily could have left Youcef right then, but she decides to stay and help Youcef reclaim what she knows belongs to him and then to her (Youcef had promised her a cut).
‘Emily The Criminal’ Ending, Explained: South America, Sunset, and Business
Towards the end of the film, Emily decides to leave Youcef and escape with the money. Here, again, we come back to the point where it had all begun. It’s all about Emily and her personal struggles and how she prioritizes them. She could have tried to save Youcef, but instead decided to leave with the money. It kind of feels that we are being judgmental for asking Emily why she didn’t try to save Youcef because deep down somewhere, we feel that she deserves a better life. She chose to get into the illegal business, and so she should also be the one to leave it whenever she wants to. Youcef had said the same thing when Emily met Youcef for the first time, along with the other volunteers for dummy shopping.
At the end of the film, we find out that she goes to South America just like she had told Youcef. It was he who had told her, on her face, that she should go. We see her drawing a portrait, we see her swimming in the sea, and we see her enjoying the sunset. It seems that the sun has set on this chapter of her life, and a new chapter is about to begin. Sure enough, we see her begin her own business based on illegal transactions. She is explaining the same things to a group of people that Youcef had explained to her and others who were there at that time. The film ends with Emily asking the volunteers the question, “Can I continue?” This question is as much pointed towards us as it is towards the volunteers. Would we, as the audience, allow her to continue with what she is doing? Will it make Emily a criminal? We don’t get to answer that question.