‘Problemista’ Ending Explained & Movie Summary: Does Dolores Wake Up From The Cryo-Sleep?

Problemista is a love story about two strangers who up an unlikely friendship despite their distinct personalities. In its very surrealistically quirky depiction of a platonic relationship between Alejandro and Elizabeth, this film also explores the struggles of an immigrant finding ways to ensure his residence in the country. Moreover, Problemista has a lot of symbolism and motifs that are depicted quite flamboyantly through Tilda Swinton’s portrayal of Elizabeth. 


Spoilers Ahead

What’s the meaning of Alejandro’s mother’s recurring dream? 

As a child in El Salvador, Alejandro and his mother would often conjure imaginary situations together. His endearing mother, Dolores, believed Alejandro to be her perfect creation and was quite overprotective of her son. She often dreamt about Alejandro wearing a blue T-shirt and entering a mysterious cave deep inside a forest. It is implied that Alejandro must face a monster inside the cave, too. At the time, little did she know that her dreams were indeed a prophetic glimpse into Alejandro’s future. Call it a mother’s intuition, but Alejandro eventually leaves this safe world that Dolores had created and moves to the US. Alejandro faces a plethora of problems with his stay and achieving his dreams, and he even has to confront the monster inside the cave, Elizabeth. 


Why does Alejandro join FreezeCorp? 

As an adult, Alejandro Martinez is a struggling artist aspiring to become a toymaker. He has come up with a few toy designs of his own and submitted them for a talent incubator program at Hasbro, but his application was rejected. To continue staying in the US, he requires his workplace to sponsor his work visa, and failure to do so will get him deported. Eventually, he finds a suitable job at a company named FreezeCorp, a firm providing cryosleep technology for rich people. The company still lacks the technology to bring its patients back from their sleep, which is why the people who undergo cryogenic sleep are mostly terminally ill. On legal paperwork, FreezeCorp provides a form of euthanasia to the patients, but the company also claims to be researching ways to bring these people back. 

How does Alejandro meet Elizabeth? 

At FreezeCorp, as an archivist, Alejandro is assigned to Bobby Asencio, an artist who only paints surrealist pictures of eggs (sort of like Zima from the episode ‘Zima Blue’ in ‘Love Death + Robots’). Bobby was diagnosed with cancer in 1996, following which he went into cryosleep, believing that people weren’t yet ready for his art and that perhaps, in the future, things would be different. Moreover, he puts his wife, Elizabeth, in charge of all his assets. 


Elizabeth is an unapologetic art critic and a rather loud woman who would argue with anyone over anything whatsoever. One might even say that Elizabeth is a critic of everything, including society. Quite naturally, Elizabeth is often despised for her bashful words, even though she isn’t inherently a bad person. After a harmless accident when he trips and disconnects the backup power to Bobby’s pod, Alejandro is fired from his job. This is when he meets Elizabeth, arguing with his boss over the hiked prices of the services. Elizabeth immediately takes a liking to Alejandro, mostly out of pity that he lost his job. Even though Elizabeth mostly complains about the world, she is quite friendly towards Alejandro, at least initially. 

Why does Alejandro start working for Elizabeth? 

Even though it is a comedy, this movie is also a commentary on the flawed US immigration system, notorious for making money off innocent immigrants. Alejandro is one of these unfortunate victims caught in this vicious web. Without an employer sponsoring Alejandro’s visa, he cannot be paid. For his immigration application to go through the concerned authorities, he must pay a hefty amount of six thousand dollars. Amidst this conundrum, Elizabeth offers for him to work for her to help her collect the thirteen paintings her husband made and have them sold at an auction. However, Alejandro continues to work for her for free, as Elizabeth guarantees that she will sponsor his visa once the paintings are sold. Of course, his job isn’t as easy as it sounds; he is forced to entertain Elizabeth’s tantrums. Since he cannot be paid, Alejandro turns to odd jobs, at one point even turning to sex work. He often interacts with a very cynical personification of Craigslist to find these jobs, which pay strictly in cash. 


Why does Alejandro become close to Elizabeth? 

As time passes, Alejandro takes a liking to Elizabeth. Under the rough exterior, he sees a person who is extremely misunderstood by everyone. Elizabeth’s biggest woe is that she doesn’t understand social cues and has no control over what she says. By offering to help him with his visa, Elizabeth showed a sideof herself that she normally did not. Moreover, Elizabeth has her own set of problems to deal with. The money her husband left behind was on the verge of exhaustion, which is why she was quite desperate to sell his paintings. But again, she didn’t want to sell these paintings just because of financial concerns. Elizabeth became what she was because the world had been cruel to her. Her husband, Bobby, was a genius as an artist but not a good husband. He practically left Elizabeth, who, in turn, is now compelled to solve the mess Bobby left behind. Elizabeth, however, does what she does out of love for her husband. She wants her husband to wake up in a world where his paintings are seen the way he intended. 

Till now, other than Bobby, Alejandro has been the only other person who actually understands what she is going through. Alejandro has his own problems; perhaps that is why he resonates with other people’s problems. Moreover, Alejandro is the complete opposite of Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a persuasive and rude person, while Alejandro is a pushover. Together, they end up forging a friendship that is quite symbiotic. Alejandro helps her deal with things calmly, while Elizabeth teaches him how to stand up for himself when problems cannot be solved by being calm. 


Does Elizabeth sell Bobby’s paintings? 

Soon after Elizabeth finds himself with another assistant, Bingham, things turn sour between Alejandro and Elizabeth. Bingham is a privileged, opportunistic brat and begins to sow seeds of distrust for Alejandro in Elizabeth’s mind. Elizabeth, too, is easily manipulated and begins to treat him unfairly. Meanwhile, Alejandro’s problems reach a solution when his immigration officer offers him a job as a paralegal, but soon after, he receives a call from an art gallery regarding Bobby’s paintings. 

Showing loyalty to Elizabeth as a friend, he convinces Elizabeth to agree to a solo show of Bobby’s egg paintings. Elizabeth despises the Roosevelt Art Gallery but agrees out of desperation. When they arrive at the art show, they’re left disappointed to find out that Bobby’s art has only been allotted a single wall to display his paintings, while Elizabeth wanted to display all thirteen of them. However, left with no other choice, Elizabeth ends up selling the paintings to the gallery. 


Does Elizabeth fulfill her promise to Alejandro? 

On his way back home, Alejandro calls his mother about the paintings, but then he receives a voice message from Elizabeth. It turns out that Elizabeth has decided to go into cryosleep so that she can meet her husband in the future. By the time Alejandro receives the message, Elizabeth has already gone to sleep, but she clarifies that she has signed the form for Alejandro’s sponsorship. Earlier, one of Alejandro’s toy designs had been stolen by a staff member from Hasbro. But Elizabeth, in her voice note, adds that Alejandro must confront the man and demand a job as well as sponsorship for his visa. 

Why did Alejandro also go into cryosleep? 

As instructed by Elizabeth, Alejandro confronts the staff at Hasbro and secures a job at Hasbro with visa sponsorship. In the years that follow, Alejandro proceeds to become a famous toy designer, acclaimed for the toys he makes. As an old man, Alejandro goes into cryosleep, only to wake up centuries later. Even in the future, Elizabeth is as eccentric as ever, but she quickly recognizes the old man as the little boy who came to her for help once upon a time. 


In Problemista‘s ending, Alejandro was moved by Elizabeth’s selfless gesture. In a strange way, he had found a true friend in a person as erratic as Elizabeth, and she felt the same, too. In the whole wide world, Elizabeth turned out to be a companion who made Alejandro feel like he belonged somewhere. In the end, the monster in the cave was not a monster at all but a friend in disguise.  

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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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