Black Flies (2024) Ending Explained – What is the significance of the final scene?

Plot Summary

Black Flies (also known as Asphalt City) stars Tye Sheridan as a rookie paramedic named Ollie who is assigned to the NYC night shift with an older and more experienced partner named Gene (Sean Penn).

The streets of New York are dangerous, as Ollie soon discovers. The movie displays the personal hell he goes through as he moves from patient to patient on the first few nights of his job. 

Ollie discovers that he can’t save everybody – something that doesn’t sit right with him, as his passion is to help people. But at the end of the movie, when he is on the verge of giving up hope, something transformative happens. 

Let’s take a closer look at Black Flies.

What do we know about Ollie?

Ollie is studying to be a medical professional. So passionate is he about his studies and his new job as a paramedic that he decides against taking a second job, even if that means living in a squalid apartment in Chinatown with others. 

At moments during the film, we see him walking through the streets of New York in a jacket emblazoned with angel wings. This is significant as he sees himself as an angel – somebody who can save people. 

This passion for helping people likely comes from an event that happened years before. When he was just a kid, he watched his mother die in the bathtub. She had taken her own life. He couldn’t save her but as a paramedic, he now has the opportunity to save the lives of others.

But as he discovers throughout the film, this isn’t always possible. His experiences on the streets have a terrible effect on his mental health as he begins to realize his powerlessness. At times, it appears that he’s close to cracking up under the strain of dealing with situations that he sometimes has little control over. 

What do we know about Gene?

Gene is older and wiser than Ollie due to the many years he has spent on the job. He is used to the squalor and deprivation of the city and its inhabitants and has partially become immune to it. 

He is still hurting, however. This is because of his family situation. He has an ex-wife and a daughter that he doesn’t get to spend a lot of time with. We also learn he has been married several times before. 

The pressure of the job and the long hours entailed have cost him his marriages. Despite that, he is a good father, even though he’s only able to see his daughter on weekends. 

Sadly, Gene’s life goes downhill when he loses his job and his wife announces she is leaving the city with his daughter. This sends him into a spiral, leading to a devastating end to his story. 

What happens to Gene?

Gene loses his job after he mishandles a childbirth case. When he and Ollie visit a mother, who is HIV-positive and badly bleeding, he does something that puts him under fire from his superiors. 

The mother, who has taken heroin to numb her labour pain, gives birth to a girl. The child is barely breathing so Gene takes the kid to another room to deliver emergency treatment. Meanwhile, Ollie does what he can to save the mother, who is in a bad way herself.

Ollie manages to save the woman but Gene is unable to save the child. At least, that’s what he tells Ollie. It turns out that Gene didn’t try to save the kid. Instead of letting the child go back to her mother and live a potentially miserable life, he decided to let the baby die.

However, other paramedics checked the child and discovered she was still breathing. Consequently, the baby was saved. Gene is suspended from his job but is offered a desk position. He refuses the offer. 

Towards the end of the movie, Ollie meets with Gene, who is now in a depressed state. A short while later, when Ollie is working with another paramedic, he receives a call that a man is about to jump from the roof of a building. Ollie recognizes the address as Gene’s home and rushes to the scene. But he is too late. The man has jumped and killed himself. As Ollie expected, this man was Gene. 

What happens to Ollie?

Ollie becomes more depressed as the movie goes on. Despite his enthusiasm for helping others, he discovers he can’t always be their saviour. His very first patient dies in front of him and during the next few nights, he sees and experiences things that have a negative effect on his mental health.

He has a gun pulled on him when trying to help a gang member, for example, and he finds a badly decayed body in a bathtub – an image that probably gave him cause to think of his mother. He also meets a woman who has been badly beaten by her husband, even though the man protests his innocence with claims that she injured herself in a fall. 

Such experiences prey on Ollie’s mind. As he discovers he can’t be the angel that people need, he begins to contemplate taking his own life. At one point, he stands on a subway platform with thoughts of jumping in front of a train.

Unlike Gene, however, Ollie manages to find hope in his life. We see this in the final few scenes of the film.

What is the significance of the final scene?

Near the end of the film, Ollie visits the mother of the child that Gene said was stillborn. He tells her the truth about what Gene did and asks for her forgiveness. The mother is angry but she softens when she hears about Gene’s suicide. In this moment, she becomes somebody who shows the good side of humanity, which is significant, as Ollie spent most of the movie seeing the worst. 

This is a positive for Ollie, as are the final few moments of the film. He is called to a building with a raging fire. Inside is a girl, lying on the floor unconscious. Ollie, who was beginning to lose hope that he could save people, manages to revive the girl and save her life. He later visits her in the hospital where he sees that she is doing well. He is thanked by her mother. 

The final scene is significant because Ollie hadn’t been thanked for doing his job before. While we don’t hear his inner thoughts, it can be assumed that the woman’s response renewed his faith in others. The experience with the girl likely renewed his belief in himself that he could save others too. While he wasn’t able to save everybody, he did save one life, and this was possibly enough to give him the courage he needed to continue in his noble profession.


Read More: Black Flies Movie Review

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