‘Life Upside Down’ (2023) Ending, Explained: What Turns Do The Relationships Take?

A bouquet of characters somehow duller than the whole “being stuck at home” ordeal of the 2020 COVID lockdown itself makes up the story of “Life Upside Down,” and it really wasn’t a story worth telling. As any epoch-making event would, the pandemic galvanized a whole movement in the world of cinema and incited the creation of quite a few magnificent manifestations of its effect on people. If you remember the insufferable rendition of Lennon’s “Imagine” by certain socio-politically tone-deaf celebrities and you can recall how unnecessary and ineffective that was, “Life Upside Down” may just evoke the same feeling in you. A picture of the lives and conflicted relationships of a bunch of upper-middle-class snobs painted in a way that is even more tedious than its exhausting subjects, ‘Life Upside Down’ will live on as a paradigm of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” 

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Spoilers Ahead


Jonathan And Clarissa

The first time you see Jonathan and Clarissa hosting the exhibition at Jonathan’s art gallery, you instantly assume that they are a couple. Your immediate conclusion will be strengthened when Jonathan forthrightly appreciates how Clarissa has apparently saved him. You are likely to get a little suspicious when you see them sneaking into the backroom with chocolate and strawberries for a little tryst, but then you will remind yourself that a couple in a rom-com can be spontaneous. And then Sue enters, leaving you with the bitter aftertaste of what you were too wary to expect. Jonathan has been sneaking around with Clarissa behind his wife’s back. Mother of Jonathan’s twins and a persevering patron of all his dreams, Sue is more than likely unaware of the lies Jonathan has been feeding his mistress to convince her that there’s nothing between him and his wife.

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Clarissa is just as clueless about the vile truths of the UN when she conducts her Zoom classes as a professor of political science and her student attempts to speak his mind as she is as Jonathan’s lover, who is truly convinced that Jonathan and Sue haven’t been an actual couple in 3 years, even after Jonathan straight up lied to her about having an open marriage when they first met. Being stuck at home in the thick of the pandemic is hard enough for Clarissa. Having their intimate Facetime calls cut short by Sue’s arrival certainly makes her doubt how truthful he’s really been about his dynamic with his wife. Being apart beats the stuffing out of any relationship, but it especially affects a relationship that exists in the scandalous escapades that take place away from everyone’s eyes.

Faced with the closure of his gallery now that the sale of his artwork has dropped further because of the pandemic, Jonathan is almost about to fall at Clarissa’s rich professor friend Paul’s feet if it means that he will buy a painting that his wife Rita liked at the exhibition. The only time Jonathan does reach out to Clarissa is when he needs to dump his problems on her and get amorous favors from the woman who is head over heels in love with him. Now that the lockdown has been hammered down on their “dates,” Clarissa is increasingly dissatisfied with just how little interest he’s showing in her when they have to abide by the social distancing rules. Pushing her further away by not only forgetting her birthday but also getting her a discernibly random last-minute gift and missing the Zoom call birthday party she has with her friends, Jonathan is proving himself to be a horrid narcissist who’s only capable of being sweet when it benefits him.

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Paul And Rita

Insufferably intellectual, Paul’s go-to insult for everyone, and everything out there is “stupid”. Yet he has married a woman almost half his age with no perceptible intellectual tendency. With no interest in actually getting to know the person he’s married to, Paul is often found dismissing her entirely or intentionally seeking out ways to berate her cerebral inferiority. What makes him look like even more of a buffoon is that there’s no originality of thought or philosophy in the man who’s writing a book.

A smug chuckle every time he runs into a quote by the great minds of history and reads it aloud to his wife, who would rather bake her vegan cookies, paints a picture of a relationship with no harmony of interests. Paul’s phone ironically chiming out Mozart’s most pedestrian Fur Elise is a not-so-subtle jab at just how superficial his grandeur of knowledge really is. Rita’s existence in his vicinity is almost inconsequential to how Paul goes about his day. His incessant efforts to convince himself that love can exist in the blackhole of similitude are amplified by the CDC-imposed mandate to stay indoors while the world fights its often fatal battle with the virus.

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‘Life Upside Down’ Ending Explained: What Turns Do The Relationships Take?

Distance and confinement alike shed light on the otherwise benign cracks in the foundation of relationships. Being stuck in the four walls of his home with his wife has made it impossible for Paul to ignore just how alienated he and Rita are as a couple. Too busy looking around and seeking approval, Paul hasn’t even had the time to notice that his wife has been pulling away from him. Quite amusingly, Jonathan has the exact opposite experience with his wife, whom he has been badmouthing to his girlfriend for years. The more he notices all that Sue does for him and their kids without an ounce of selfishness, like a textbook narcissist, the more Jonathan is once again drawn to his wife. In the current dynamic affected by COVID, Clarissa seems awfully demanding to the man whose wife has always been there for him, providing him with unconditional love and support.

In the absence of Clarissa’s validation, Jonathan seeks comfort from his wife, who’s indomitable in her urge to brook her husband, who has even whined about her chronic asthma to his girlfriend. When Sue offers to talk to her dad and get his painting sold, Jonathan realizes that she is the only person who will always back him and his ambitions, no matter how much he mistreats her. But does he break up with Clarissa? Nope! Clarissa is made to endure the harshest possible end of the relationship when he accidentally leaves the Zoom call going and gets intimate with Sue while Clarissa listens.

Disillusionment comes to two people about something they shouldn’t have believed in the first place. Clarissa comes to terms with the wretched truth that Jonathan has been lying to her the whole time, while Paul catches Rita having an affair with their neighbor. It isn’t that Clarissa wasn’t nearing the breakup even without learning what Jonathan has been up to. The more the Iranian man who lives in her guest house shows her the kind of care and affection she deserves; the closer Clarissa gets to actualizing her self-worth, which never should’ve been determined by anyone else, let alone a guy like Jonathan. When he finally sits down with Rita and addresses the problems in their relationship without pulling her down or belittling her, Paul sees that he’s the one who’s been clueless about his own life while he is busy thinking everyone around him is stupid.

As life moves forward for each one of them and the pandemic lets up, we see that Jonathan hasn’t lost his gallery after all. The only difference between the first exhibition sequence and the last one is that Jonathan has made up with his wife, who seems to be glowing, and Clarissa has found love in a friend. And the world went on like these people didn’t affect it one bit because they didn’t.

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“Life Upside Down” is a 2023 romance comedy film directed by Cecilia Miniucchi.

Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjeehttps://muckrack.com/lopamudra-mukherjee
Lopamudra nerds out about baking whenever she’s not busy looking for new additions to the horror genre. Nothing makes her happier than finding a long-running show with characters that embrace her as their own. Writing has become the perfect mode of communicating all that she feels for the loving world of motion pictures.

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