Brokeback Mountain ending explained - Looper (2023)

Brokeback Mountain ending explained - Looper (1)

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VonAdam Cetorelli/June 2, 2021 10:28 pm EST

The tragic love story of Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Brokeback Mountain has captivated viewers - gay and straight alike - since the film came out in 2005. “Brokeback Mountain” is always one of themThe best films of the actors(althoughLedger played almost no part in it) for its heartbreaking screenplay by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, thoughtful direction by Ang Lee, and strong performances from the supporting cast, including Michelle Williams as Alma Beers Del Mar and Anne Hathaway as Lureen Newsome Twist.

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While Brokeback Mountain received critical acclaim - it even earned Lee the 2006 Academy Award for Best Director - the content wasn't for everyone, of course. The film would also receive backlashcountless American conservative pundits, and its global reception has also been a godsend, with countries around the world restricting screenings or DVD distribution, censoring the more intimate scenes, or even banning them altogether.

Celebrations and condemnations aside, "Brokeback Mountain" is so memorable for the uncertainty of its ending, where Jack's death is undisputed, but its cause is left up to interpretation.

No more trips to Brokeback Mountain

After Ennis returns a postcard to Jack that reads "DECEASED," he calls Lureen to find out more about the circumstances of his lover's death. It isa hard sceneWatching Jack's two partners discuss the loss of their loved one with extreme tension, given how much Lureen knows about the Cowboys' relationship. Lureen tells Ennis that she informed him of Jack's death, but she didn't know his name or address because "Jack had his friends' addresses in mind" — apparently implying that Ennis wasn't his only "fishing pal." And that's true to an extent: As Jack and Ennis' dates became less frequent, Jack began making trips to Mexico to pick up hustlers, and it's also possible that he had a relationship with his and Lureen's mutual boyfriend Randall had Malone (David Harbour).

But Lureen quickly turns to the matter and recounts the events leading up to Jack's death: “Jack was pumping a flat tire on the truck outside on the side road when the tire exploded. The rim of the tire slammed into his face, breaking his nose and jaw and knocking him unconscious on the back. By the time someone passed, he was drowned in his own blood. He was only 39 years old." Her account is so robotic it's suspicious. Did she tell this painful tale so many times that she went deaf, or is it actually fiction designed to explain the embarrassing circumstances to cover up about Jack's death—perhaps in the context of his homosexuality?This ambiguity is reinforced by the visual representation that accompanies Lureen's play-by-play.

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One call, two dead

As Lureen tells her story, the camera cuts from her close-up to one of Ennis, then to a long shot of a meadow next to some railroad tracks where three men are beating Jack to death - the kicks in Jack's groin reinforcing the idea that this is a hate crime . It is common in film editing to cut from a close-up of an actor's face to another scene to indicate that the following scene is from that character's imagination, but this is not always the case and viewers must decide whether whether it's a murder is all in Ennis' mind or if they're being presented with the truth behind Jack's death.

Anne Hathaway commented on this scene in a 2010 interviewNPRs „Fresh Air“say they took the call two ways: one in which Lureen knows about the men's relationship and lies about Jack's death, and another in which she only reports what she believed to be true, that a tire blew up and killed her husband. The two shots were eventually merged in the final cut of "Brokeback Mountain," making things much less clear.

Lureen knew something was going on, but didn't know how far it went until the end

Brokeback Mountain ending explained - Looper (4)

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Part of the phone call scene that appears to be from the more unconscious take is when Ennis and Lureen discuss Jack's cremation and his wishes for his remains. Lureen tells Ennis that he was cremated and his ashes were divided between her and his parents, even though there is a headstone with "Jack Twist" on it. She pauses, smacks her lips, then says, "He used to say he wanted his ashes scattered on Brokeback Mountain, but I wasn't sure where that was," before guessing it was near his childhood home could be.

When Ennis tells Lureen that one summer Brokeback Mountain was herding sheep, he confirms what she had already suspected. Tears well up in her eyes as she finally understands that her husband's "favourite place" was where he began his long-running affair with Ennis. The two soon end the conversation and Ennis makes plans to visit Jack's parents to check on the ashes.

A hidden compartment and two bloody shirts

At Jack's parents' house, Jack's father Ennis refuses the ashes, but the distraught cowboy is allowed to go into his former lover's nursery. There, Ennis wanders dejectedly, inspecting a cowboy toy with tears in his eyes, and then sits by the window to collect himself. He eventually goes to Jack's closet where, after gently brushing some of his washcloths and picking up an old boot, he discovers a secret area where Jack hid their bloodied shirts from their big brawl on Brokeback Mountain. Ennis's shirt is tucked into Jack's, a sentimental nod to their connection.

Ennis collapses stroking the shirts, and Jack's mother allows him to take them in place of the ashes. He may not be able to grant Jack's wishes for his remains, but he will keep a memento of a pivotal moment in the beginning of their relationship.

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In the end, Ennis chooses love

The final scenes of "Brokeback Mountain" take place in Ennis' trailer, where his 19-year-old daughter Alma Jr. (Kate Mara) surprises him with the news that she's engaged. To her disappointment, Ennis initially tells her he won't be able to come to the wedding because of a ranch hand job he has scheduled for that time, but after some thought he decides to give his daughter priority and cancel the job. and he pours them some celebration drinks.

After Alma leaves, Ennis goes to his closet to inspect his and Jack's shirts, now turned inside out with Jack's shirt tucked inside his and hanging next to a photograph of Brokeback Mountain. Tears come to his eyes again and he utters the iconic line "Jack, I swear" before the credits roll. Ennis learns from his past mistakes and decides to be there for his loved ones and go to Alma's wedding instead.

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Brokeback Mountain isn't just about two men struggling to make sense of a love they've been taught to reject - it also follows their journeys to overcome the inadequacy they feel because of falling short of expectations rigid masculinity did not live up to the face of cowboys in mid-century rural America. Ennis may not have been able to accept his love for Jack until it was too late, but he can choose to embrace love in the future and be more present in his daughters' lives.



What did the ending of Brokeback Mountain mean? ›

Brokeback Mountain should be renamed Heartbroke Mountain after its heart wrenching ending. Jack realizes that he and Ennis will never be together, because Ennis is too afraid to live openly. Later, Ennis attempts to reconnect, but discovers Jack is dead.

Why was Jack Twist killed? ›

In a strained telephone conversation, Lureen tells Ennis that Jack died in an accident while changing a tire; Ennis, however, suspects that he was murdered by men who discovered his secret life.

Why did Ennis and Alma divorce? ›

She dislikes Ennis's predilection for low-paying ranch work with long hours, and wants to settle down somewhere to raise her family. She eventually gets a job at a grocery store in Riverton. Jack's reunion with Ennis is the beginning of a gradual distancing between Alma and Ennis that eventually culminates in divorce.

What is the famous line from Brokeback Mountain? ›

Ennis Del Mar: I'm gonna tell you this one time, Jack fuckin' Twist, an' I ain't foolin'.

What did Jack's postcard say in Brokeback Mountain? ›

Ennis gets a postcard from Jack which reads, "Ennis, see you in a couple weeks, fish should be jumping.

Why did Jack go to Mexico in Brokeback Mountain? ›

Jack admits he travels to Mexico for sex because Ennis can't give him enough of a life. They argue, but nothing is resolved. Jack remembers a time on Brokeback when Ennis simply embraced him and stood with him by the fire.

How did Jack freeze to death? ›

In a finale that broke the heart of millions of young girls in 1997, dreamy free spirit Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) froze to death in the icy Arctic as he clung to a makeshift raft selfishly boarded by his new girlfriend (played by Kate Winslet).

Did Jack's parents know Brokeback Mountain? ›

Dad seems to be running the show, and he makes it pretty clear that he knows what Jack and Ennis were up to, saying, "I know where Brokeback Mountain is.

Why does Ennis get sick? ›

Ennis, though often gruff on the outside, is revealed to have a tender side through his relationship with Jack. When Ennis and Jack part ways after their summer on Brokeback Mountain, Ennis feels so upset over losing Jack that he feels physically sick.

Did Ennis get Jack's ashes? ›

As Lureen informs Ennis, "He use to say he wanted to be cremated, ashes scattered on Brokeback Mountain" (128). Of course Ennis wants to honor that request and heads to Jack's parents for the other ashes. But he just can't get it done: "In the end the stud duck refused to let Jack's ashes go.

What do the tire iron symbolize in Brokeback Mountain? ›

Tire irons come to represent a physical and pervasive manifestation of homophobia throughout the story. Tire irons are used to beat Earl to death, and Ennis presumes that Jack died by being beaten with tire irons, too.

How long were Ennis and Jack together? ›

The film stars Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, and it explores the 20-year complicated, romantic connection between two American cowboys – Ennis Del Mar, and Jack Twist – in the American West.

What is the most famous movie line ever said? ›

A jury consisting of 1,500 film artists, critics, and historians selected "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn", spoken by Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in the 1939 American Civil War epic Gone with the Wind, as the most memorable American movie quotation of all time.

What does the mountain symbolize in Brokeback Mountain? ›

For both Ennis and Jack, Brokeback Mountain represents pure freedom of romantic and sexual expression, totally removed from the limitations of society.

Why is it called Brokeback? ›

From the title of Annie Proulx's 1997 short story "Brokeback Mountain"; popularised by the 2005 film of the same name.

Were any sheep harmed in Brokeback Mountain? ›

Evidently, the filmmakers felt no compunction to reassure the public that no animals were harmed or killed in the making of the film despite scenes of elk hunting, rodeo activity, a gutted sheep, a dead coyote hanging on a fence, and rough handling of sheep.

Is Brokeback Mountain Based on a true story? ›

The tragic story of "Brokeback Mountain" is not based on true events, but is actually adapted from a novel of the same name. The short story written by Annie Proulx was first published in the New Yorker in 1997.

Why did Leonardo Dicaprio turn down Brokeback Mountain? ›

I was not ready. I'm not sure why. There was just sort of a hiccup on my part. There was something off with myself, I guess, whatever was going on.”

Who turned down the role in Brokeback Mountain? ›

Josh Hartnett is one of the few actors who has spoken publicly about passing on "Brokeback Mountain," which he was offered when he was at his career's peak.

How old were Jack and Ennis in Brokeback Mountain? ›

While the two 19-year-old men work on Brokeback Mountain, Ennis is stationed at the base camp while Jack watches the sheep higher on the mountain. They meet only for meals at the base camp, gradually becoming friends.

Could Jack have survived? ›

The hosts did an experiment showing that if one of the characters had tied Rose's life jacket underneath the door to make it more buoyant and then propped their bodies more upright on the board, they would've lived. “The script says Jack dies. He has to die,” Cameron responds in the episode.

Why didn t Jack fit on the door? ›

"The answer is very simple because it says on page 147 [of the script] that Jack dies," he told Vanity Fair. He continued: "Obviously it was an artistic choice, the thing was just big enough to hold her, and not big enough to hold him.

What were Jack's last words? ›

One of Jack's final lines is also offering praise for Rebecca. That line — “You did so good,” he tells her of raising their family — moved Fogelman the most.

What did Ennis swear to Jack? ›

I swear there will never be anybody but you. It was only you in my life and it will always, always be only you, only you. Jack, I swear. Source: Brokeback Mountain, Edition Peters Item EP68365, ISMN 9790300758305.

Was Jack's father abusive? ›

Throughout five seasons of This is Us, we saw a fair amount of Jack's (Milo Ventimiglia) father, Stanley (Peter Onorati), an abusive drunk who ruined Jack's childhood.

Was Jack a good father? ›

Jack is a very smart father who has an inventive mind of creating stories. The basic line was the same but there was a little variation. Each story described a creature named Roger. He had to manage his family as two children, a daughter Jo and her brother Bobby.

How is Ennis killed? ›

Not long after Elsa (Isabel May) received assurances from her beloved Ennis (Eric Nelsen) that he would marry her, tragedy struck their wagon train: a gunfight with some marauding bandits took away the man who took Elsa's virginity. That's right: Ennis the cow herder is dead!

Why was Ennis crying? ›

The only moment where he expressed his true feelings was during their last meeting in 1983 when Jack said he wished he could quit him after an argument. The words stung Ennis and he fell to his knees crying.

Who killed Ennis on 1883? ›

Ultimately, the two have a tryst that ends with Ennis committing himself to Elsa and even standing his ground against a furious James Dutton. And then, just as he's about to prove himself in battle, he falls.

Does Alma divorce Ennis? ›

Over time Ennis' marriage deteriorates. Alma knows about his relationship with Jack, having seen the two men kissing upon their reunion. In 1975 Alma divorces Ennis, taking custody of their two daughters and marrying her former employer.

What did Ennis swear? ›

When he said “I swear”, he was fulfilling a promise that he should have made to Jack while alive, and that is to be with who you want to be with, regardless of cost. In other words, he was saying “I swear to you I'll be the person you know me to be. The one I was too scared of being while you were alive.”

Who is Ennis wife? ›

Alma is an easy face to put on the kind of disapproval that Jack and Ennis face (and oh yeah, the kind that gets Jack killed). But we also have to remember that she's Ennis's wife and has two little girls with him while they're married.


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