Shutter Island Ending Explained: What’s the True Definition of Insanity?

Shutter Island Ending Explained

Based on Dennis Lehane’s 2003 novel of the same name, Shutter Island is a 2010 American neo-noir psychological thriller film that was directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Laeta Kalogridis.

A psychiatric facility on Shutter Island is being looked into by Deputy U.S. Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels, played by Leonardo DiCaprio when one of the patients goes missing.

Ben Kingsley is the facility’s chief psychiatrist, Max von Sydow is a German doctor, and Michelle Williams plays Daniels’ wife. Mark Ruffalo plays his partner and another deputy marshal.

The movie, which debuted on February 19, 2010, earned over $294 million worldwide and garnered largely favorable reviews from reviewers.

It was also named one of the top ten movies of 2010 by the National Board of Review. The movie’s soundtrack was praised for its heavy use of classical music, including works by Max Richter, John Cage, Krzysztof Penderecki, György Ligeti, and Gustav Mahler.

Plot Summary

Shutter Island Ending Explained

In order to look into the disappearance of Rachel Solando, who drowned her three children, U.S. Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels and his new partner Chuck Aule head to Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane on Shutter Island in Boston Harbor.

The staff, led by psychiatrist Dr. John Cawley, seem unwilling to work together. Lester Sheehan, Solando’s physician, quickly departed the island for a vacation after Solando vanished, the marshals learn.

Teddy has frequent migraines, intense dreams about his late wife Dolores, who perished in a fire started by arsonist Andrew Laeddis, and flashbacks of his time serving in the U.S.

Army during the liberation of Dachau. Teddy tells Chuck that he took the case because he thought Laeddis was on the island and wanted to find him.

When Solando reappears out of nowhere, Teddy is forced to enter a locked ward where he encounters inmate George Noyce. He tells Teddy that everyone is lying to him and that the physicians are torturing their patients, some of whom are brought to a lighthouse to be lobotomized.

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Chuck and Teddy reunite after climbing the cliffs toward the lighthouse, but they divide as they do so. Teddy searches after discovering Chuck’s death on the rocks below but only discovers a cave where a lady claiming to be the real Solando is hiding.

She claims to be a former psychiatrist who learned about mind control operations but was forced committed. She claims that Cawley and his associate Dr. Naehring would pretend that Teddy’s combat stress has caused him to go crazy so they may commit him.

When Teddy returns to the hospital, Cawley welcomes him. When Teddy inquires about Chuck’s location, Cawley adamantly maintains that Teddy is alone on the island and does not have a partner.

Teddy, who believes Chuck was brought to the lighthouse, makes his way there but runs across Naehring, who tries to put him to sleep. When Teddy finally manages to overcome him and enter the lighthouse, he finds Cawley waiting for him.

Teddy approaches Cawley, exposes his interaction with Solando, and claims he thinks Cawley is performing an experiment on him.

Shutter Island Ending Explained

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Teddy’s tremors are being attributed to withdrawal symptoms from the anti-psychotic drug chlorpromazine, which he has been taking for two years, according to Cawley, who denies that Solando ever existed and says that Teddy has not been drugged.

When Chuck shows up there, he confesses that he is actually Dr. Sheehan. According to Cawley, “Teddy” is actually Andrew Laeddis, who is in jail for killing his maniac wife after she drowned their three children.

When Dolores burned down their apartment, Andrew chose not to seek assistance for her; instead, he moved his family to a lake property, where disaster struck.

Cawley clarifies that Andrew’s illusion is a product of his guilt, that his headaches and hallucinations are actually signs of withdrawal, and that recent events have been a complex role play intended to treat him.

Andrew collapses from his unexpected remembrance. When Andrew eventually wakes up, he calmly tells the medics the truth. They had reached this level nine months earlier, according to Cawley, but Andrew suddenly relapsed.

He cautions Andrew that this is his final opportunity and that he will be lobotomized if he slips up once more. Later, Andrew unwinds with Sheehan on the hospital grounds.

Andrew calls Sheehan “Chuck” once more and declares that they must leave the island, appearing to be hallucinating. Sheehan gives Cawley the go-ahead to have Andrew lobotomized.

The next question Andrew poses to Sheehan is, “Would it be worse to die as a nice man, or to live as a monster?” Sheehan, who is now in a state of shock, calls Andrew “Teddy,” but the latter does not reply and walks away calmly with the orderlies.


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