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Montana Story Ending Explained

The ending of Montana Story shows the siblings, Cal and Erin, finding peace with their past and each other. Cal disconnects their father from life support, and Erin decides to leave their old horse at a nearby ranch.

Montana Story, directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, is a touching drama about family trauma and reconciliation. The film stars Haley Lu Richardson and Owen Teague as siblings who return to their family ranch in Montana to face their past and their dying father.

Plot Summary

Cal and Erin come back to their childhood home because their father is in a coma. The family ranch, once lively, now feels empty with just a few chickens and an old horse. Their father, Wade, lies in a hospice bed with no hope of recovery. The film explores the siblings’ strained relationship, their personal traumas, and their efforts to reconcile with their past.

The Ending Explained

Climactic Confrontation and Resolution

The climax of Montana Story is full of emotional confrontations and revelations. Cal, who has been taking care of his comatose father, struggles with his mixed feelings towards the man who abused him. Erin feels deep anger and resentment towards her father for his past actions. The emotional peak comes when Erin sees Cal talking to their father about his unhappiness. This moment is crucial as it shows Cal trying to find closure and make peace with his father’s legacy.

The Father’s Death

The father’s death is a key moment in the film. It is implied that Cal disconnects his father from life support, and Erin sees this from the doorway. Ace, the Kenyan immigrant nurse, covers up this act by saying the death was due to a heart attack during a power outage (Wikipedia). This moment highlights themes of forgiveness and the moral sophisticatedities of end-of-life decisions.

Siblings’ Reconciliation

After their father’s death, Cal and Erin start to reconcile. Erin, who planned to take the family’s old horse, Mr. T, back to her home in New York, decides to leave the horse at Mukki’s ranch with other horses. This decision shows Erin’s acceptance of her past and her willingness to move forward. The siblings part ways with a promise to keep in touch, indicating a hopeful future for their relationship (Wikipedia).

Thematic Analysis

Family Trauma and Healing

Montana Story dives deep into the theme of family trauma and its long-lasting impact. The film shows how past crises have shaped the siblings’ lives and choices. Resolving their feelings towards their father and each other suggests they can move past the painful memories (Arts Fuse).

Forgiveness and Redemption

The film’s ending emphasizes forgiveness and redemption. Cal’s act of disconnecting his father from life support can be seen as an act of mercy and a step towards forgiving his father. Erin’s decision to leave Mr. T at Mukki’s ranch and her willingness to reconnect with Cal further highlight the possibility of redemption and healing.

The American Heartland as a Backdrop

The setting of the film, the vast and desolate Montana ranch, plays a crucial role in the narrative. The ochre tones and the incessant wind create a sturdy sense of place, reflecting the emotional barrenness and the potential for renewal. The film’s cinematography captures the beauty and harshness of the American heartland, adding depth to the story (LA Times).

Critical Reception

Montana Story has received generally favorable reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an 87% approval rating based on 88 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10. The critical consensus reads, “Montana Story takes a gut-wrenching look at family trauma, brought brilliantly to life by Haley Lu Richardson and Owen Teague” (Wikipedia). Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 73 out of 100, based on 22 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews” (Wikipedia).


The performances of Haley Lu Richardson and Owen Teague have been widely praised. Richardson’s portrayal of Erin is described as one of her best performances, with her every word being a piercing indictment of her father’s actions. Teague’s performance as Cal is equally compelling, with his apologetic eyes pleading for atonement (LA Times).

Direction and Cinematography

The direction by Scott McGehee and David Siegel has been lauded for its subtlety and emotional depth. The film’s cinematography, which captures the sprawling Montana landscape, adds to the film’s melancholic and reflective tone. The use of natural light and the depiction of the changing seasons enhance the narrative’s emotional arc (Variety).


Montana Story is a exquisitely crafted film that explores the sophisticatedities of family trauma, forgiveness, and redemption. The film’s ending, marked by the father’s death and the siblings’ reconciliation, provides a poignant resolution to the narrative. The performances of Haley Lu Richardson and Owen Teague, combined with the film’s evocative cinematography and direction, make Montana Story a compelling and emotionally resonant drama. The film’s critical reception further underscores its impact, with reviewers praising its thematic depth and the standout performances of its lead actors.


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