‘The Adults’ Ending Explained & Movie Summary: Do the Siblings Get Over Their Internal Conflict?

Dustin Guy Defa’s 2023 movie The Adults is a slow-paced slice of life that shows the lives of three siblings. Starring Michael Cera, Hannah Gross, and Sophie Lillis in lead roles, this is a movie where dialogue and living-room heart-to-hearts take the lead. When a brother comes to visit his two sisters in New York, years of repressed sadness and anger are revealed in this hour-and-a-half-long movie. Here’s a detailed recap of everything that happens in The Adults.


Spoilers Ahead

What’s bothering Rachel?

Eric comes over to New York from his place in Portland, Oregon, to visit his sisters after a gap of three years. It’s been a very long time since the mother of Eric and his two sisters, Rachel and Maggie, passed away, and the relationship between the children soured over time. Perhaps this was the reason Eric had stayed away for such a long time because he didn’t have it in his heart to visit his sisters, but now that he does arrive, there’s a growing tension in the family, especially between Eric and Rachel. She’s just had a bad breakup after her boyfriend cheated on her, and now she lives in a perpetually soured mood, no matter the situation. Her countenance doesn’t light up too much, even when it’s her brother who comes to visit for a few days in the ancestral home Rachel was left by their mother. On the other hand, there’s the ditzy Maggie, who has left college because she decided it’s not something she enjoys. She’s the total opposite of her moody sister and loves hugging Eric whenever he comes to meet the two. There are problems, however, and Rachel has been experiencing panic attacks for quite a while now, although she doesn’t specify the reason behind them.


What’s happening in Eric’s life?

Meanwhile, Eric visits Dennis, his old friend from high school, dropping by his doorstep at night and asking him for a drink. Dennis has to refuse because he has a family, something none of the siblings have found the time to do yet. Eric really misses the poker matches that he and his friends would have as young students, and he’s very excited to get everyone back together for another opportunity so that he can play poker with them. When the friends do gather, Eric plays awfully and begins losing miserably, making a scene with his friends. He’s upset that things aren’t going his way and that there’s not a single good thing in his life he can feel happy about. Eric feels like a side character in his own life as well as in the movie, as he barely finds any glimmer of hope.

Why do Eric and Rachel fight?

Eric takes his sisters to the zoo, to the bowling alley, and several other places, and it becomes very evident that the three of them have grown up imitating cartoon voices. No matter the situation, the siblings break into cartoonish voices, and it’s not for the entertainment of others but for themselves. Sadly, this is the only way they can express themselves and say what they wish to. Other times, they have to keep up the appearance of being a happy family of three siblings, which is why most things go unsaid in the family. Eric had initially planned to stay at Rachel’s place just for the weekend, but he extends his stay indefinitely and stays over at the ancestral house. Rachel, for some reason, doesn’t like it, feels that Eric is overstaying his welcome, and deliberately uses the loud vacuum cleaner near him to irritate her brother. Eric finally breaks, and the two end up having a fight as Rachel shares for the first time what has bothered her all along. As it turns out, Eric had left after their mother died, and Rachel hadn’t had her brother beside her in such a confusing time. She had to single-handedly pay the taxes, take care of the house, and keep her life from falling apart, even though she’d been failing at it lately, and the panic attacks were evidence.


How does Rachel realize the value of family?

At her workplace, Rachel tried the cartoon voices with the sound designer she works with, but he stared blankly at her, failing to understand what these sounds were supposed to mean. This tells Rachel that none but her own family will understand her and that she needs to value them over others. Meanwhile, Eric starts winning in the poker games and is informed of a big poker game that happens in a shady place with a big buy-in. Eric agrees to participate in the big game because, by now, this is his only source of dopamine, and ends up the champion with a fat wad of cash. However, he’s robbed by a man who’d lost to him early on in the game, who takes away his money, and he can only ride a cab back to his sisters’ place, helpless. Eric is shown to be a rather pathetic individual who can’t stand up for himself and is rather weak in the face of injustice.

Do the siblings get over their internal conflict?

At their family home, Eric and Rachel have a cartoonish voice argument, which irritates young Maggie. That night, Eric tells Rachel that he really does love his sister a lot, even though he hasn’t said it to her in a very long time. The brother and sister hugged with sincere affection, probably for the first time since Eric met her after three years. The next morning, he’s supposed to get up early to catch his plane to Oregon, so he wanted to make up with his sister so that he wouldn’t have to leave with a heavy heart. However, when the morning comes, Eric sleeps in, and the sisters wonder why he hasn’t gotten up yet, but they don’t wake him up either. This is the most subtle way to show that they didn’t want him to leave and would rather he stay with them for good. This proves that the siblings were ready to be a family again, like they’d been as children, and all it took was to get the emotions out.


What Does The End Mean?

The Adults is the kind of movie where subtle nuances and quiet family turmoil are the themes of the story against the backdrop of everyday life. There’s neither intense drama nor any major turning point that alters the personalities of the characters. It’s a reflection of real life in the purest way possible because real people don’t do extremely dramatic and elaborate things when they’re upset, at least compared to Hollywood. The Adults ends with the sisters Rachel and Maggie sitting on the porch having tea while their brother sleeps in. They don’t call him awake because they’d rather let their brother wake up late and stay with them than leave again. The main message of the movie is that family is important and that estranged bonds can still be reconnected if people love each other.

Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

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