‘The Eternal Daughter’ Ending, Explained: What Happens To Rosalind? Who Is Real?

Joanna Hogg’s The Eternal Daughter is a small molecule of a film, brittle and still fragile, completely aware of its own position in the garden of thick fog that surrounds it. It pits actor Tilda Swinton against herself in the film’s most galvanizing narrative trick—she plays both the protagonists, the mother, and the daughter. With any other actor, perhaps, this would seem like a preposterous decision to make, but the Academy Award-winning actress, who has consistently walked away from the archetype of a movie actress, is modern cinema’s most veritable shapeshifter. With Swinton in charge of the words, there’s a certain alliance created in the audience— trust that this trick is going to work. It is this magic trick on which Joana Hogg mounts The Eternal Daughter, and when it gradually snatches the carpet from under your feet, she lets you feel the coldness all over again. Difficult to pin down and utterly compelling in its own world-building, The Eternal Daughter shows us that with a gifted director, there is no need for additional visual effects to compensate for the story. If you wondered what happened at the end of The Eternal Daughter and how it rounded off that hypnotic twist, you are not alone. This essay will dig into the director’s style and treatment and try to offer answers to a lot of those questions that were left hanging by the end. If you haven’t seen the film, do not read this further, as it may spoil the viewing experience for you. Once you have seen the film, come back to this piece. For now, let’s proceed!


The Eternal Daughter follows Julie and Rosalind as they arrive at the ghostly, gothic Moel Famman Hall with their faithful pet fog Louis. While arriving, the driver warns her that the place has a sinister presence about it and even tells her how there is an apparition by the window pane in the garden that haunts the place. Julie is unperturbed and takes a casual note of it. When they reach the hotel, Julie greets the receptionist and asks her about the booking. To her surprise, there is no booking to be found at all, and the woman quite rudely grants her a room by the fringes, even though it is quite clear that the other rooms are not occupied. Nevertheless, both Julie and Rosalind settle down for the day. But at night, Julie is unable to sleep because of the wind and the floor above her making creaking noises as if someone is present there. Since the receptionist has left, she has to pass the night. Her mother, though, is sound asleep. The next morning, Julie complained of the rough noises. She has breakfast with Rosalind, who has great memories attached to this place. Slowly, she will talk about the happy and the bittersweet memories that have stayed with her and now reemerge through the walls, pictures, and fireplace. Julie is here to celebrate the birthday of her mother and to also get to spend time with her mother without any interference. It is revealed that Julie is a filmmaker, and she is trying to write a film based on her mother, Rosalind’s life. She records some of her conversations with her and tries to get her to speak about things. Yet more often than not, she’s consumed with the fear of the unknown lurking around her and also the fear that her mother is not doing well. Rosalind calls her fussy for always getting so quickly alarmed by things.

The Eternal Daughter builds up its tiny yet intimate conflict from this point on, reflecting Julie’s apprehension over making a film on her mother’s life and the apprehension of the director herself. Hogg had wanted to make this film for a long time, but she was scared of the idea of guilt and how she would be able to perceive her mother through such a language. Hogg’s inability and turmoil are reflected in Julie in a kind of meta-ness that has now become quintessential to the director’s style. If both the Souvenir films were about the director’s confrontation with her art, then The Eternal Daughter is a confrontation with her mother. It is interesting to note that The Eternal Daughter could very well be observed as a continuation and a fitting conclusion to the two Souvenir films. Here too, the daughter and her mother are called Julia and Rosalind. In The Souvenir Tilda played mother to her real-life Daughter Honor Swinton Byrne, then in The Eternal Daughter, her extension as both mother and daughter underlines the tangible relationship between parent and child, where the daughter’s search for an identity is tied up with her mother. They are built from the same mold, an extension of each other in a lifetime full of silences, anxieties, fears, and memories.


It all builds up to the climactic dinner scene when Julie announces Rosalind’s birthday at the dinner table. For the first time, Hogg cuts a shot where we can see both Julie and Rosalind in one frame; until now, there was only one of them who cut into a frame. As Julie wishes her mother a glorious birthday and asks her what she wants to order, Rosalind replies that she isn’t hungry. Julie is perplexed and says she won’t eat either. Rosalind insists on her eating, but Julie disintegrates and says “my hunger” stems forcefully, directly from you. “All my life, I have only wanted to make you happy,” Julie says. That’s what has kept her alive and going, even while she has neglected her relationship with her husband. Julie is devastated by how close yet how far she is from her mother, and the more she wants to understand her, the more she is firmly kept at a distance from her. She starts to sob. As the receptionist reminds her of the cake, Julie quickly gets up and brings the cake, singing in a scared, haunted voice, “Happy Birthday, mum.” As Julie blows out the candle, we see the wide shot again. It’s only Julie sitting by herself. There’s no Rosalind. She’s not there.

Rosalind was a figment of Julie’s imagination; she never existed in reality. It was her mother’s ghost that Julie carried all along as a treatise to channel all her fears and anxieties, the unanswered questions that still haunt her. Hogg has said how the genre is placed within the crux of the story in such a way that both of these processes involve fear. Hogg was afraid of losing her mother. She was also afraid of the dark. The Eternal Daughter is a culmination of these two fears and builds on the mysterious meeting ground when the personal ghosts are juxtaposed with the forces that are present in the spaces that surround her. Julie’s apprehension and tenacity, guilt, fear, memory, and objectivity mold themselves into Rosalind’s psyche. At its core, The Eternal Daughter is a quest to understand our own heritage and our own place in a world full of unknown, mysterious forces. The moment Julie is able to unlock her deepest fears and free herself of the guilt of trespassing on her mother’s life, she is able to get over her writer’s block. She completes the script she has been working on and bids goodbye to the hotel. She drives off in a car. The final moments of The Eternal Daughter suggest that the physical, emotional, and psychological fog has been lifted, paving the way for a clear day of light and sunshine.


“The Eternal Daughter” is a 2022 mystery thriller film directed by Joanna Hogg.

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Santanu Das
Santanu Das
Santanu Das is a writer who likes to have Sally Rooney books by the table, and when not reading or writing, you will find the champ clicking pictures of the sky that brightens his mundane days. He believes a film a day can cure almost all feelings of doubt and make everything just perfect.

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