The Guilty (2021) Plot Synopsis
The Guilty is a 2021 remake of a 2018 Danish movie, following that story’s beats almost blow for blow. If you’re familiar with that film, there won’t be many surprises here.
Our main character is Joe Baylor, a demoted police officer who’s in for a long night when he works in a 911 call center. He’s stressed, on a short fuse and very clearly worried about his court case the following day (more on that in a bit.)
When Joe receives a call from a panicked woman called Emily, he tries to talk her through a difficult kidnapping situation. This includes a series of calls to Emily’s 6 year old daughter Abby, who’s currently at home with baby Oliver.
Henry is the kidnapper in all this and Joe is forced to race against time to try and stop him before it’s too late.
Is Henry really guilty?
As Joe becomes more and more invested in helping Emily, a big twist turns everything upside down. In Joe’s hastiness to save Emily, he misunderstands the whole situation. Henry is not the culprit here – Emily is.
When Joe’s friend and fellow officer arrives at Emily’s house, he finds Oliver lying unconscious in bed. There are bloodstains all over the house and also on Emily too. Emily had hurt Oliver because she’s mentally unstable, with Henry unable to afford her medication. Emily was actually incarcerated at a psychiatric ward in the past, confirmed through documents we hear about earlier in the movie. Henry’s previous criminal record is enough for Joe to jump to conclusions and believe he’s guilty.
So really, Henry is innocent in all this. It was Emily all along but Joe inadvertently helped Emily in her mission to get away. Thankfully he does find out that baby Oliver is alive and in hospital later on, but the drama really crescendos prior to that when Emily climbs up onto a bridge.
Does Emily commit suicide?
Emily is at the end of the line. She’s sobbing on the phone, the sound of cars driving in the background. Joe tries his best to get through to her but nothing seems to work.
With Emily close to jumping off the overpass, Joe eventually opens up over what he did in the past. We’ll get onto the specifics of that in a minute. This confession is enough for Emily to decide she wants to “be with Oliver” and it appears as if she jumps. Only, we soon find out that she survived, deciding to come down off the overpass after all. Joe saved her life.
What happened in Joe’s past?
Throughout the film we’re drip-fed bits of exposition about Joe’s past and by the final scenes it becomes clear exactly what he’s been holding onto. Joe is convicted of manslaughter, which explains his court case. During a particularly intense altercation, Joe ended up killing a teenager whom he thought was the accused. It was an accident but enough to completely upend his life.
It’s been six month since Joe and his partner Jess have separated. Jess believes Joe should pull himself together and get his head straight, sternly telling him that things are over between them when he rings early in the movie.
Joe is clearly losing track of time too, getting dates mixed up and struggling to think clearly.
Joe’s court case doesn’t just affect him either though. Rick is due to be his primary defence witness and on the eve of giving his statement, he ends up having “1 or 2 drinks.” Lying is clearly have an effect on him too and it would as if he’s pretty stressed. He also clearly exhibits doubts about whether Joe will come out of this on top or not.
How does The Guilty end?
After getting off the phone and learning Emily and Oliver are both still alive, Joe makes a big decision about his future. He rings Rick to let him know Emily is alive and implores him to tell the truth at the courthouse. After hearing about his drinking it would appear as if he’s aware of what Rick is going through.
After hanging up, Joe rings Katherine, the reporter from the LA Times. She rang Joe earlier in the movie, only to be hung up on, but now he’s ready to talk. He decides to tell the truth about what really happened.
Joe pleads guilty to manslaughter and is subsequently arrested. In the end, Joe faces his past and decides to do the noble thing.
Read More: The Guilty (2021) Review
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