After spending two hours establishing the relationship between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, Fifty Shades of Grey caught many viewers by surprise with its rather abrupt ending. In the film’s final few scenes, Ana asks Christian to show her just how bad things can get in his playroom. After he obliges her by spanking her six times with a belt, she spends the night in tears, only to wake up and leave Christian. Walking out of his apartment, Ana gets on the elevator, and in a scene that mirrors their first meeting, we watch as the doors close… and then the screen fades to black.
Yes, that’s really the end of the film. And yes, that’s more or less how it happened in the book.
More specifically, in the book, the scene begins when Ana finds Christian playing sad music at the piano, which then leads to the two of them talking about his desire to punish her and his refusal to tell her why he is the way he is. Unable to imagine leaving him behind, Ana asks Christian to show her. In her words: “Punish me. I want to know how bad it can get.” Sound familiar?
From there, the scene plays out just as it does in the movie, minus a few minor details. There’s a belt, he spanks her six times, and it changes everything for her. However, the biggest change is that, in the book, when he visits her later that night, he gets into bed with her and holds her as she admits her love for him. When he tells her that she can’t love him, Ana gets up and leaves right then, refusing to stay the night. As she’s heading to the elevator, she stops Christian from hugging her, telling him “I can’t do this.”
In the film, the word choice is slightly different. This seems like a small detail, but it actually ended up being a point of contention for the film’s creators: When Christian goes to kiss Ana in the film, she yells at him to “stop.” According to The Hollywood Report, this was book author E. L. James’ choice; in Patrick Marber’s script rewrite Anna instead said “red,” otherwise known as her safe word.
But here’s where the movie made a smart choice—by not including what happens after the elevator doors shut. The book’s ending is much more drawn-out— Ana sobs on the car ride home before finally making it to her apartment, then collapses on her bed to sob some more. Basically, fans should be happy for the film’s abrupt ending; it sends the same message in a shorter amount of time.
From a storytelling perspective, though, it certainly seems like a strange choice—the film spends its entire run time building a relationship, only to tear it apart in the final 20 minutes. If the first Fifty Shades ends up being the only book in the trilogy that’s adapted, fans could certainly argue that director Sam Taylor-Johnson and her screenwriters should’ve changed the ending. Considering how unlikely it is that Universal would pass up on the money-making machines that would be Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, it’s understandable that the ending stayed as it was. In fact, it’s probably the bravest thing the film does—if anything, audiences going into Fifty Shades are not expecting things to suddenly fade to black.
But then again, isn’t black technically a shade of grey?