The Son (2022) Ending Explained – What happens to Nicholas?

The Son Plot Synopsis

The Son is the latest film from director Florian Zeller, and like his last film, The Father, it is an adaptation of his own stage play.

The film tells the story of Nicholas, a 17-year-old who is suffering from acute depression. Each day is a battle for the young teen due to the overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and sadness that he feels. His separated parents, Peter and Kate, don’t understand the pain that Nicholas experiences. But when he tries to take his own life, they are forced to wake up to the fact that their son is mentally unwell.

Does Nicholas get the help he needs? Let’s take a closer look at the movie.

Why does Nicholas have depression?

People with acute depression often develop the illness after experiencing great stress and trauma. This seems to be the case for Nicholas as he had to witness his parent’s divorce when he was younger. His suppressed emotions may have caused his depression, which is portrayed in various ways throughout the movie.

How is Nicholas’s depression portrayed?

The first sign that Nicholas has depression is when he tells his mother that he doesn’t feel a part of the world. He is emotional when he tells her this and it is clear that he is experiencing overwhelming feelings of sadness. This is one indicator of depression.

Later in the movie, Nicholas moves in with his father and Beth, his stepmother. His stepmom notices cuts on his arm and she realizes Nicholas has been self-harming. This is another sign that Nicholas has depression as people with this condition often hurt themselves because it eases their anxiety and brings them relief. Of course, self-harm is never the answer to somebody’s problems. If this is something that is relevant to you, it is wise to seek help. Some useful information can be found here.

How does Peter help his son?

When his wife tells him about Nicholas’s self-harm, Peter tries to understand his son better. He does this by spending time with Nicholas and we see the two of them hanging out with one another. For a while, Nicholas appears happier but when he and his father get into a disagreement, he tries to take his own life.

Nicholas is rushed to the hospital and thankfully survives the suicide attempt. His doctor speaks to his parents and recommends that Nicholas should stay at the medical facility for psychiatric treatment.

Peter initially agrees to this but when his son has an emotional meltdown as a consequence, he begins to feel guilty about his decision.

Does Nicholas get the help he needs?

Unfortunately not! Peter decides to take Nicholas out of the facility and back into his home with Beth.

Nicholas appears happy and Peter thinks his son is finally getting better. However, all is not well with the teen. People with depression often pretend to be happy but this is a mask for their pain. This is the case with Nicholas.

When Nicholas tells Peter and Kate that he loves them and asks for their forgiveness, they both think he is turning a corner. As audience members, we might suspect this isn’t the case. Nicholas is making his peace with his father and mom, which is something many people do with their family members before taking their own life.

Our suspicions are seemingly confirmed when Nicholas returns to his room and a gunshot is heard.

Is there a happy ending for Nicholas?

The gunshot came from Peter’s gun, which Nicholas had somehow gotten hold of. We see Peter run to his son’s room but we don’t see what has happened to Nicholas.

The movie flash-forwards into the future and we see Peter and Nicholas together. We see that Nicholas has written a book called ‘Death Can Wait’ and we hear Peter telling Nicholas how proud he is of him.

This is a happy ending, right? Sadly, no. Peter is imagining this scenario and playing out a scene in his head where he is saying all the things he should have said to Nicholas when he was still alive. In reality, Nicholas died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

Shortly after, Peter is woken from his thoughts by Kate and is overwhelmed by his grief.

Nicholas didn’t get a happy ending and on the surface, neither did Peter. However, their final conversation had been a happy one, so it might be that Peter later reflected on this. This is something we don’t get to see in the movie, unfortunately.

What can we learn from The Son?

The Son’s ending is rather bleak but the same doesn’t have to be reflected in our own lives. If you recognize the signs of depression in somebody in your life, don’t be like Nicholas’s parents. They were slow to act but you don’t have to be. Be there for the person that you think has depression and find them the relevant source of help.

If you suffer from acute depression (or any other form of mental illness), it’s important to know that suicide isn’t the answer. Seek help if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts. There is information here and here but speak to your doctor and people who love and support you for further assistance.


Read More: The Son Movie Review

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29 thoughts on “The Son (2022) Ending Explained – What happens to Nicholas?”

  1. My parents divorced. I survived. The parents divorce is NOT what caused Nick to take his life. Nicks mental illness caused him to take his life. From what Nick said when confronting the stepmom – the mom did not handle the divorce well and made her own grief and resentment to her husbands affair known to her son. MAYBE be a MOM and keep your dad-bashing to yourself? I am a divorcee myself and I never bashed my ex husband to my sons. Imagine making my sons feel inadequate in any way?

  2. It’s appalling how a few commenters here seem to be blind to the fact that the money making father left his wife for a younger woman, with no regard for the child of his first marriage. Why would that not make a child mentally ill? I think the movie is a powerful argument that divorce and remarriage are very hard on children, and those who are callous enough not to put nurturing their offspring first are not likely to understand the trauma they create.

  3. I feel the point of the movie was “the problem with me was …my parents.” The divorce clearly devastated him. It was the parents who needed the help on how to communicate and how to apologize, not the mental health system to “fix” their son. That was the point-the parents were blind as to their contribution to their son’s state,Until it was too late.

  4. Thanks for getting in touch on here. Words aren’t really enough but I am truly sorry about what your family has gone through and is still going through. I hope and pray the best for all of you.

  5. How about a kid who has attempted twice & 3rd stay, even though my nephew’s parents begged them not to release him after 3 days because my nephew told them he knew what to say to get out & it’ll just be a matter of time. The Dr knew & let him out anyway. 5 days later my nephew shot himself in the head. Died 20 days before his 16th birthday. IMO, the Dr should have been held responsible. Of course not a lawyer in this big city was willing to take on a big hospital. My brother, who found his son after, is shattered. His entire life has been pulled out from under him. He regularly sees a therapist & Dr for meds. He has PTSD, was fired, losing his career. How to even start over after this tragedy? How to explain years of no work?
    My heart breaks for him every single day. If a hospital couldn’t help, who could?

  6. I knew the ending could not be a happy one when they went against the advice of the doctor. As parents, it is so easy to get emotionally manipulated, and that is what happened here. The parents’ guilt clouded their judgment of what was the best thing for their son. They did love him, no question there. But he needed not only love but strength coming from them.

  7. Hi Brenda, thanks so much for sharing your story. You have clearly been through a tremendous amount of pain and I will never be able to know just how much you have gone through. But I am glad that you are here and that you found strength in God. I hope you have support from people around you. Reach out to somebody if you need to. I know from experience that the listening ear and moral support of another person can really help in times of great darkness. I’m glad you’re here! Take care Brenda 🙂

  8. This film hit very close to home. I am 66 years old. I dealt with severe anxiety and major depression for most of my life. I married, had two beautiful sons, divorced my husband to keep me safe and moved out with my two sons. The divorce was devastating to my two beautiful boys. At the time I was not able to give them what they needed and deserved. Fast forward…I lost my firstborn son to an accidental drug overdose. I struggle with regret and self-blame for my son’s death because I divorced their father. He was alcoholic and abusive physically. I can relate to Nicholas’ feeling of hopelessness and a feeling of not belonging anywhere. I have lost my only sibling sister, mother, father, (niece and son to overdose) and my grand girl to suicide. I really did love the film in spite of the pain it brought up in me. It is very real in light of today’s society and all that we struggle with as humans. God is the only reason I am alive. I hope he forgives me for my failings with my sons. God Bless all.

  9. Thanks for sharing Jeff. I’m sorry to hear about your situation and that of your girlfriend. I can relate to some of what you are saying and know how painful watching a movie like The Son can be. I hope today has been a good day for you.

  10. Thanks Monique. I hope you’re having a good day today. I share your struggle but know from experience that there is hope for people who suffer with mental illnesses. If only the ending of the movie had shown some of that. Still a good movie though, despite the agonising end.

  11. This movie made me cry at the end. I suffered mental illness since.I was 15 years old. I’m 28 now and I still suffer from it. It’s not easy and this movie was amazing. The actors and actresses were amazing but I just wish he had lived at the end

  12. Wouldn’t have watched this with my girlfriend who’s son shot himself smh not a good movie choice although obviously relatable. Coming from someone who also struggles from suicidal depression. No diagnoses or treatment other than self care. Which I’m learning in life, having a chemical imbalance from years drug abuse has definitely taken its toll. God bless anyone dealing with these issues. I feel the lord is the best answer but whatever works if it keeps one from kmtaking their own life. Bless

  13. Great movie, I found myself wanting to tell get this child some help please. This story about more than Nicholas, the adults needed help as well. I wish the psychiatrist had discussed Nicholas condition without him being present. I wish the psychiatrist would have explained more about how after the first attempt the risk at a second attempt is higher and more likely to succeed. The psychiatrist was right in stating love can’t fix this. This movie broke my heart and taught me valuable lessons as well.

  14. Excellent movie! You’re correct in saying it is very intense and emotional. It’s the kind of movie that makes you really open your mind and think about issues such as mental illness and chemical imbalance…

  15. Hey Karyn, you’re right with your comment about teen suicide. Due to personal life experiences, I can certainly relate to what you are saying. I’m sorry if the other person’s comment upset you. It was unncecessarily harsh.

  16. Excellent acting and powerfully realistic. I would find myself getting upset with his parents for not getting him the help he needed sooner. The reality though is that they may have been too close to the problem to see the broader picture.

  17. I meant Not Beth!
    Beth was away and Kate and Nicholas and Dad were all together when Nicholas apologized before he took his life.

  18. Nicholas apologized to his father and mother before he took his life . Not Kate!
    She was away on vacation with the baby and her family. Nicholas made a point to make his parents a coffee and tell them how happy he was they were all together just like before when he was a happy kid. I think he chose then to take his life when they were all together as a family.

  19. Karl
    You are truly ignorant. Unless you’ve experienced a chemical depression you have no right with that comment. Teen suicide in this country is at an all time high, these kids aren’t weak…they struggle everyday in hopes this horrible anxiety and depression stops.
    With help Nicholas could have been a productive member of society and attained a happy life. I truly hope you never have a loved one pass this way.

  20. I agree Carmen. There is hope for today’s youngsters butmore needs to be done to support their mental health needs. Here’s hoping movies like The Son can encourage others to care more for the young people in their homes and schools.

  21. Very sad movie! Nicholas surrendered to the challenges of life. The divorce of the parents was very difficult for Nicholas, especially seeing his mom suffered. As a mother and grandma, I wish for happy endings especially for young people. I was an educator for 40 years and I love to see happy youngsters!

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