‘Parachute’ Ending Explained: & Movie Summary: Does Riley Meet Ethan Again?

Brittany Snow’s Parachute isn’t a rom-com to feel fluttery about. Rather, through Riley’s struggles, this film takes a psychological approach to show the impact of mental disorders like body dysmorphia. Neurotypical people often do not understand what someone with conditions like these goes through. It can be quite horrifying, and that is something Brittany Snow has captured impeccably by letting us see the world through the eyes of Riley herself. 


Riley is a young woman fresh out of rehab, looking forward to recovering from her severe eating disorder and body dysmorphia. Riley has become a compulsive Instagram scroller, and her feed is filled with Instagram models with flawless and “perfect” bodies. These women, with their strict workout regimes and dieting, make Riley feel worse. At times, she even starves herself on purpose. It’s quite true that Instagram’s rise has led to an increase in the popularity of fitness models and influencers in an economic system that feeds on people’s dopamine reserves. At this point, almost every other person is suffering from body image issues, but Riley suffers from an extreme condition that has invaded her daily life.

Spoilers Ahead


Why Was Riley In Rehab? 

Riley had been dating Hunter for a while now, but she had been suffering from body dysmorphia for even longer. It wasn’t her fault that she wanted to look desirable to men in a world where every other man desires women with perfect bodies. Even when she was with Hunter, Riley couldn’t help but think that she wasn’t good enough for him. She walked a line between the extremes of giving in to compulsive eating and then forcefully starving herself. 

During one such incident of her breakdown, she wakes up in the middle of the night to bake a cake. However, before even putting the dough into the oven, she begins to binge on the raw dough. Feeling guilty, she throws the dough into the trash can, but then changes her mind again and eats the dough from the trash can. Hunter catches her in the act, is disgusted by her actions, and shames her. This incident is implied to be the reason for her breakup with Hunter, which prompted her to go into rehab. 


How Does Riley Meet Ethan? 

Right after stepping out of rehab, Riley is welcomed by her friend, Casey, who takes her to a mutual friend’s farewell party. Riley isn’t very keen on going there, fearing she might find someone new at the party. In fact, her recovery plan discourages her from indulging in distractions like dating. However, she likes open bars and agrees to go with Casey anyway. 

While Casey is away singing with a guy named Justin, Ethan, Justin’s friend, strikes up a conversation with Riley. Following the initial humorous banter, Ethan and Riley have an immediate spark. After an impromptu plan to grab some Thai curry, they go to Riley’s apartment. However, before they can head upstairs, Riley reveals that she cannot sleep with him because she is disallowed from dating as she’s still in the middle of her recovery. She does, however, want Ethan to join her and spend some time with her. Ethan is quite understanding of the situation and complies. Regardless of their initial agreement, they head upstairs to sleep together, but Riley changes her mind as soon as Ethan touches her. Being touched makes Riley think of her body-image issues, which makes her stop Ethan. Ethan, being a responsible person, complies with her, stays by her side, and keeps her company. 


Riley and Ethan spend the night making a blanket fort, watching movies, and bonding over the things that intrigue them. Even though they agree that they like each other, they decide to be friends, as Riley has had a tough time the last few months. 

What Does Dr. Akerman Say About Ethan? 

A mandatory part of Riley’s recovery is to go to therapy sessions with her new psychologist, Dr. Akerman. Additionally, she must go to group support meetings regularly as well. During a session with Dr. Akerman, Riley confesses that the reason she eats is to stop her brain from thinking about her body. Every time she sees other women, her thoughts begin to race, and she compulsively compares herself with them. She even compares herself with Dr. Akerman in her presence, and the only way she can pause these compulsive thoughts is when she’s distracted. For Riley, dating is similar to eating, which serves as a pretty significant distraction until she no longer feels that novelty in dating. 


After Ethan arrives in her life, Riley hangs out with him every day. They go to clubs, watch movies, and practically spend every waking minute with each other. They’re supposed to be only friends, but even in a platonic relationship, she is quite invested in it. Dr. Akerman believes that Riley is indeed treating Ethan as a distraction to keep away from her racing thoughts. This revelation makes Riley unhappy again. 

Why Does Riley Start Dating Max? 

Over the course of a year, Ethan and Riley begin to get close to each other emotionally. It is implied that they even have feelings for each other, but given Riley’s condition, both of them refrain from it. Ethan does want to confess his feelings to her, but some might even say that he is too thoughtful for his own good. Moreover, even Ethan is exposed to Riley’s nervous breakdowns, making him even more concerned about how a relationship would impact her. 


Eventually, Riley gets herself a job at the bar where Casey works. Run by Bryce, this bar sets up a murder mystery that the customers have to solve; however, the plot they follow is quite obvious and easy to crack. This is where she meets Max, a bartender who, honestly, is quite a chad, but Riley wants someone new to distract her, and it doesn’t bother her that Max only wants to sleep with her. This is why, when Max texts her, hoping to grab some drinks, she agrees despite not wanting to do so. Gradually, Riley starts dating Max and keeps the relationship a secret from everyone, including Ethan. Even Riley’s friendship with Ethan had begun to fade away with Max’s arrival. Even though Ethan feels jealous when he finds out about Max, he prefers not to show it, but he does feel concerned that she is dating a guy like Max. 

Do Riley And Ethan Confess Their Feelings To Each Other? 

As time passes and Riley gets occupied with her relationship, she grows more distant from Ethan. Moreover, Ethan knows about the troubles that Riley has been facing, but it seems she knows nothing about where Ethan’s coming from. Ethan has a savior complex, which makes him cater to other people’s needs over his own. Ethan suffers from this problem because of his own circumstances. Ethan’s father, even though a loving one, has had a drinking problem. On some occasions, Ethan’s even had to pick his father up from pubs. 


To catch up with Riley after a long time, Ethan invites Riley to his parents’ house for Thanksgiving. During the dinner, his father gets drunk and makes a fool of himself in front of Riley, embarrassing Ethan. Because of how things transpired, Riley panicked and left the house to get some air. Ethan joins her, and she reveals that Max broke up with her earlier and is in Aruba with an Instagram model. She shames her body for not being good enough, but Ethan interrupts her and tells her how wrong she is to think that way. He confesses that he loves Riley, and she reciprocates. They spend the night together in his room, but Riley is not satisfied with Ethan’s words, prompting her to leave in the morning without saying a word. 

Why Does Riley Try To Take Her Own Life?

Casey and Justin, who got engaged earlier, met with Riley to tell her that Casey is pregnant. However, during their conversation, Justin hints at Ethan seeing someone named Gwen. This revelation makes her feel even worse, and she impulsively starts texting Max. Seeing this, Casey becomes furious at Riley. Casey lashes out at Riley about how awful Riley’s self-sabotaging behavior makes her feel, but that is something Riley isn’t keen on realizing either. Casey’s harsh words make a serious impact on Riley, and she texts Ethan to meet her the next day. Despite the differences, Ethan cares about Riley and is eager to meet her. 


Riley and Ethan head to Riley’s place, only to find out that Riley’s mother was moving Riley somewhere else without even informing her. Riley’s mother adamantly accuses Riley of not taking care of the apartment. Moreover, she dismisses Riley’s mental condition. This incident triggers Riley, but Ethan stands by her and arranges for her to stay at his family’s cottage in a nearby forest. Despite Ethan being reluctant, Riley and Ethan get drunk together. Intoxicated, Riley contemplates why they never worked out and asks him if he still loves her, but Ethan stays silent. Riley tries to kiss Ethan, but he stops her, which upsets Riley, who believes that he prefers Gwen over her. Even though Ethan is going through his own set of problems, Riley assumes that it is because of her that Ethan is seeking help. 

Their argument escalates into a furious quarrel between the two as they end up hurling insensitive statements at each other. This prompts Ethan to leave as well. Overcome by her thoughts of hatred towards herself, Riley swallows a bunch of painkillers and passes out. Meanwhile, despite being upset, Ethan realizes that he shouldn’t leave Riley alone. He returns to the lodge to find Riley passed out in the bathroom, and he immediately admits her to the hospital. She wakes up to find her mother sitting next to her. Her mother realizes how negligent she has been with Riley. She also reveals that she had to ask Ethan to go home, as he wasn’t keen on leaving her side. 


How Does Riley Get Better?

Following the depressive episode that nearly took her life, Riley realizes the impact her death would’ve made on other people. She can no longer go on the way she did and makes up her mind about improving her lifestyle. The murder-mystery-themed restaurant Riley worked at had been struggling financially because of the below-average plot they had been enacting. Seeing her boss, Bryce, fear shutting down the establishment, she decides to take it upon herself to write a plot herself. Even though she struggles with it, Riley comes up with an intriguing story that surprises everyone and receives a lot of acclaim from the customers as well. The kind of validation that Riley receives from her work being such a huge success finally makes her realize that she had been looking for validation in the wrong place to begin with. 

Does Riley Meet Ethan Again?

During Parachute‘s ending, Riley runs into Ethan one last time at a gender reveal party for Casey and Justin’s baby. It had been a long time since she last saw Ethan, and she hadn’t had any contact with him either. Ethan shows up at the party with his girlfriend Gwen, which strangely doesn’t bother Riley now. However, they do not talk to each other at all. As Casey and Justin reveal the gender of their baby, Ethan and Riley look at each other and think back about what happened the night she was admitted to the hospital. It is revealed that while Riley was still unconscious, Ethan broke down next to her and asked her to let him go so that he could do so as well. 


Ethan was a person who couldn’t say no to people who asked for his help, and that was a major reason why he was struggling to get over her. He could never be stern with her or ignore her. It turns out that Riley wasn’t really unconscious at the time and had heard what he said. This was what made her think about staying away from Ethan, as it was for the best for both of them. 

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Shrey Ashley Philip
Shrey Ashley Philip
A teacher, photographer, linguist, and songwriter, Shrey started out as a Biotechnology graduate, but shifted to studying Japanese. Now he talks about movies, advocates for ADHD awareness, and embraces Albert Camus.

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