Conventional thrillers that depend on twist endings to captivate viewers generally leave a trail of breadcrumbs along the narrative progression, which plays with the audience’s negligence and later creates a cohesive roadmap, making sense of the causality. Unsatisfying thrillers tend to fall into the trap of taking an abrupt U-turn to suit the plot, which doesn’t only take away the conviction factor but also ruins all the build-up as well. Unfortunately, “The Tutor,” directed by Jordan Ross, falls into the second category. In addition to the poorly crafted twist that leaves a bad aftertaste, a character bluntly stating out loud the message the movie wants to convey really takes the cake. We would also like to add the fact that the title of the movie has little to no significance to the larger narrative, which is a bit surprising given how much literary terminology was tossed around in the first half of the movie.
Starring Garrett Hedlund, Noah Schnapp of “Stranger Things” fame, and Victoria Justice as the leads, “The Tutor” revolves around a private educator who finds himself entangled in increasingly complicated situations after undertaking the job of tutoring an eccentric teenager.
A Lucrative Offer
As the movie begins, we are introduced to Ethan Campbell, a reserved, middle-aged man who works in a private tutor firm and gets assigned to upskill teenagers from affluent families. Not much is known about Ethan’s past except that he has an abusive, racist father, with whom he still dares not share that he and his girlfriend, Annie, are expecting their first child.
Ethan gets assigned to tutoring duty by his firm’s manager, Chris, and gets to know that the employers have specifically requested Ethan for the job (which Chris thinks is due to popular reference) and are willing to pay him $2500 a day for as long as they need to. It’s a no-brainer choice for Ethan, who is already looking for means to increase his income, given that soon he has to shoulder the added responsibility of being a parent, and he takes the offer. Days later, Ethan is escorted to the stately mansion of his employer and visits the teenager, Jackson, whom he is going to tutor for the next week. Ethan also meets Jackson’s cousin, Gavin, a sleazy, spoiled teenager who, according to Jackson, visits their mansion to spend the summer. However, he cannot observe the presence of Jackson’s parents in the mansion.
From his initial impression, Jackson comes off as a reserved, bright student who really doesn’t need Ethan’s guidance for his studies. However, as the days pass and Ethan gradually learns more about the boy, things start getting awkward. Upon Ethan’s questioning, Jackson is unwilling to share information about his father’s profession and says that his mother was sent away. Out of nowhere, Jackson throws a curveball at Ethan in the form of an extremely personal question regarding his upcoming child being a bastard, given the fact Ethan is not married. Ethan also has a hobby of photography, and noticing that, Jackson asks him to take a photo of him. Later, Gavin and Jackson manage to convince Ethan to skip a study session by bribing him with five thousand dollars. During one such occurrence, Jackson came to Ethan and shared his insecurities and past trauma. Ethan shares a bit about his troubled childhood to comfort Jackson, but Ethan gets frustrated after Jackson leaves and he gets to know that someone, presumably Gavin, was observing them.
The next day, Jackson approaches Ethan to invite him to dinner with his father, but Ethan, still fuming over the incidents of the previous night, tells him off and prepares for his return. A while later, Ethan goes to find Jackson to apologize for his behavior but finds no one to be present in his room. Moreover, he sees that Jackson’s laptop is lying open in the room and sees a number of pictures of himself on it that were taken privately. Utterly confused, Ethan raises the issue on the next and last day of his tutelage duty to Jackson, and to his utter shock, Jackson starts acting psychotically, hitting himself over and over, and then suddenly rushes away. A dumbfounded Ethan tries to find and calm Jackson down but to no avail. He meets a person who claims himself to be Jackson’s father, and after sharing a little talk with him, Ethan leaves to return to his home.
A Tutor’s Nightmare
Even before Ethan reaches his home, Chris calls him to inform him that Jackson’s father is willing to continue his tenure as his tutor and is willing to pay three times the amount this time as he feels Ethan has established a good rapport with his son. Still shaken over the events that took place throughout the week, Ethan hesitantly agrees. At night, Ethan and Annie invite a couple of their friends to a posh restaurant to celebrate the gender reveal of their upcoming child, where Ethan gets drunk and starts ranting about Jackson’s antics, awkward clingy behaviors, and the overall shady nature of his family. Jackson appears in front of them and overhears his rant; he is visibly anguished. Annie later berates Ethan for his conduct and also remarks that Ethan almost resembles his father while being intoxicated.
The next day, Jackson calls Ethan, this time to conduct their study session in their townhouse. Before Ethan can apologize to Jackson for the last night, Jackson hangs up abruptly. Ethan goes to the address and finds no one to be present as he enters the house. Jackson calls him and asks him to help himself to the fruits while waiting for his arrival, and Ethan munches down a couple of strawberries. It turns out the fruits were spiked as Ethan fell unconscious, and he woke up almost drowning in a lake. To make matters even worse, he returns home to discover that he has missed Annie’s medical appointment and that a woman has called for him continuously without responding to Annie’s questions. Ethan had a tendency toward promiscuity in the past, and even though he has turned a new leaf since, Annie still can’t shake off the suspicion. She had also kept a GPS tracker in Ethan’s phone (which Ethan willingly agreed to due to parental concerns), which also doesn’t corroborate with Ethan’s statements.
While developing the negative reels of his camera, Ethan discovers that while being drugged, he was photographed with Gavin’s female companions in a way that was staged to hint at his supposed debauchery. Ethan refrains from sharing this information with Annie and wonders about the possible reason Jackson might have gone to such lengths. However, his misery is only just beginning, as the next morning, Chris informs him that Jackson has accused Ethan of being abusive toward him and ends up firing Ethan from the tutoring firm.
A Past Connection
Ethan goes job hunting and finds Jackson and Gavin loitering around. He threatens the duo with severe consequences if they don’t stop messing with him and his family. Later that day, Ethan is called by the police, who have come across the staged video of Ethan beating up Jackson in an alley, and to add to his misery, Annie has arrived at the police station too, and Jackson confides in her.
After returning home, Annie asks Ethan about his connection with the woman named Rachel Platt, as Jackson claims to be her son. Rachel Platt was supposedly murdered a decade ago, which Ethan remarks to have been suicide by drowning in the lake, and mentions that he had a relationship with her. He also wonders if Jackson considers Ethan guilty of murdering Rachel, which is the reason he is tormenting him. Annie asks the possible reason why Ethan didn’t mention her once during their relationship, and Ethan states that he didn’t want to relive the trauma. However, Annie asks Ethan to leave the house until he decides to come clean with everything.
‘The Tutor’ Ending Explained – Does Jackson Get His Justice?
Ethan spends the night in the car and goes to Jackson’s mansion the next day to meet with his parents, where he finds, unsurprisingly, no trace of Jackson or his associates as it is boarded by a different family altogether. Ethan decides to visit Jackson’s townhouse at night and finds the remaining bits of spiked strawberries, but in the process, he trips the alarm and is once again taken to the police station. He comes to know that he was infiltrating the residence of Jefferson Platt, the husband of Rachel Platt, making his actions even more suspicious as Ethan was questioned for Rachel’s murder a decade ago. From his job, family, and dignity, Ethan has managed to lose everything, thanks to Jackson.
Soon as Ethan steps outside the police station, Jackson calls him to meet at the place Rachel was murdered a decade ago, a bayside manor. As Ethan meets Jackson there, and is accused of murdering his mother, Ethan continuously denies the allegation, stating that Rachel took her own life. Jackson remarks that in the confidential report the detectives presented to his father, the circumstantial evidence clearly pointed out someone assaulting her brutally, effectively killing her, before her body was drowned. Ethan continues to deny the allegations, and Gavin knocks him out. Meanwhile, Annie, who grows concerned about Ethan, sees his position in the GPS tracker.
Ethan is awakened for a second round of questioning, and Jackson reveals that Rachel’s autopsy report showed that she was pregnant, which according to him, was surely Ethan’s child, given the fact that Jefferson wasn’t close to his wife at that point in time. Ethan remarks that he had called Rachel the night she died, and knowing that she was in a drunken state, he didn’t want to meet her. Jackson mentions how taking away the person who loved him most, his mother Rachel, is the reason he loathes Ethan so much and has tormented him ever since. Seeing Ethan adamant enough to stick to his statements, Gavin threatens to kill him, which makes Ethan reveal that he was, in fact, with Rachel the night she was murdered, but he had no role in her death, which happened after he left. Ethan breaks down in tears and laments Rachel’s death. Jackson brings out Rachel’s diary, where she had written about Ethan’s unstable nature, and asks him for the last time to confess to the crime of murdering her. Ethan once again denies it, which prompts Jackson to start reading Rachel’s diary. The statements of Rachel denote that, contrary to Ethan’s opinion of their love, Rachel came to fear and loathe Ethan in the end. The truth causes Ethan to snap; he attacks the duo, kills Gavin, and chases Jackson through the manor.
As Jackson gets cornered in the manor’s boatyard, a totally unhinged Ethan finally confesses about murdering Rachel, a fate he will ensure for Jackson as well. Annie arrives at the scene and overhears Ethan’s statement, which prompts Ethan to target her as his next victim. Jackson uses Annie’s distraction as an opportunity to shoot Ethan in the shoulders, which causes him to fall into the bay, supposedly drowning to death. However, even an extensive search by the police the next morning didn’t recover Ethan’s body. In the closing sequence of the movie, we see that Ethan has not only survived but is also talking about tutoring procedures with the guardian of some clueless preppy rich teen.
By the end of “The Tutor,” Jackson might have gotten the closure he was seeking by bringing his mother’s murderer to justice, but viewers get to know that the deranged psychotic killer, posing as a compassionate tutor elsewhere, has managed to escape his fate once again. Perhaps the years of abuse and a toxic environment contributed by his father—or the departure of his mother at a young age from which Ethan never recovered—led to a broken mental condition, but in no way can it be understated just how manipulative Ethan was in all his relationships. Even aside from murdering Rachel to hide the true parentage of her child, Ethan was going to repeat his crime by murdering his present girlfriend Annie, too, without a moment’s delay, when his façade of an innocence fell off. It makes sense why he didn’t respond to Jackson’s peculiar behaviors of stalking or incriminating him like an average person should, as he was too busy hiding the skeletons in his closet. It remains to be seen whether Ethan will try to exact his vengeance upon Annie or Jackson in future installments, but we do wish it turned out not to be a contrived one like this.
“The Tutor” is a 2023 mystery thriller film directed by Jordan Ross.