Persuasion: the movie ending, explained

By Feron Jayawardene — ON Jul 22, 2022

Dakota Johnson is Anne Eliot, the new protagonist of an age-old literature classic starring unrequited love. The film, adapted from the Jane Austen novel follows the relationship saga of Anne, a humble and witty girl born to a pretentiously wealthy family and Frederick Wentworth, a captain in the British navy. With many twists, turns and a cocktail of woke casting, the film delivers a classic British ending with closure. 

Caution: Spoilers ahead

Anne pines over Frederick until fate arrives with a twist

The film starts with Anne narrating her life story, giving a rough introduction to Frederick (Cosmo Jarvis). Anne was in madly love with him but had to give him up because he was a random sailor back in the day.

Fast forward 8 years, Anne is still infatuated with the sailor, who had moved up the ranks to be a captain now. She drowns her sorrows through wine and going through paper cuttings of the captain’s heroics while having no certain ambition for life. 

Meanwhile, her father Walter Eliot (Richard E. Grant) loses his house due to increasing debt and the debt collectors take away all his belongings. The family friend Lady Russel (Nikki Amuka-Bird) who also acts as a second mother to Anne given the passing of her real mother suggests the family move to Bath to afford a simple lifestyle. 

They leave Anne behind to show the house to the new tenants who happen to be admiral Croft. While showing around the house Admiral Croft reveals that his wife’s brother happens to be Captain Frederick Wentworth. 

A cold encounter between the two ex-lovers ensues 

Meanwhile, Anne goes to Upppercross to help her sister who is dealing with an unidentifiable illness where she learns that Admiral Croft is coming to have dinner with Frederick. 

However, Anne misses the opportunity to join the ceremony after she agrees to take care of her nephew who falls from a tree. They both meet the next day in a very awkward encounter. 

Later, they attend a dinner where captain Wentworth announces himself to be looking for a wife and he starts to spend his time with Anne’s sister-in-law Louisa (Nia Towle). 

A frustrated Anne then tries to have an open conversation with Frederick and asks him to be normal and not be angry. Wentworth replies

“Then what would you want me to be?”

Anne meets an unexpected stranger

The group later goes to Lyme where they meet Captain Harville (Edward Bluemel). The captain asks Anne to convince Frederick to re-join the navy and bid to be an admiral someday. At dinner, she speaks intriguingly, garnering Frederick’s attention. She also manages to console Captain Benwick (Afolabi Alli), who is in mourning after the loss of his fiancée. 

The next morning she meets a random stranger while Frederick intervenes to confront him. 

Later at the beach, Wentworth talks with Anne and suggests they be just friends to which Anne agrees. But she continues to pursue Frederick to join the navy and admiralty.  

The stranger meets with Anne again and later is revealed to be William Eliot (Henry Golding), the heir to their father. Anne reveals that Walter wanted to marry the older sister Elizabeth to him, but he declined after marrying in America. However, his wife had passed away. 

An unexpected accident twists the plot altogether 

Louisa jumps off a high wall to pursue Frederick to catch her, but she falls low and hits her dead. A frantic Frederick begs for help while Anne calmly manages the situation. The doctor says that her situation is not serious, but she needs rest. Captain Benwick agrees to stay behind while Frederick goes to tell her parents about the ordeal. 

Anne moves to Bath and encounters William who reveals his only purpose in coming is to marry her father’s mistress lady Penelope Clay (Lydia Rose Bewley), in a bid to keep the inheritance in the family. 

In the meantime, Lady Russel tells Anne that Frederick and Louisa are getting engaged. An inconsolable Anne spends her time weeping and drinking. 

Did Anne end up with Frederick in the end?

Later, Anne runs into Frederick again while with Eliot. After indirectly telling Frederick to leave, Eliot proposes to Anne but she says that she needs more time. 

That night, she meets Frederick and captain Harville again and reveals that she is done waiting. Frederick leaves by giving a note to Anne. At that moment, Harville reveals that Louisa had fallen for captain Benwick while she was ill, and she had accepted his proposal of marriage. 

Anne reads the letter where Frederick professes his love to her. She runs back to Frederick and sees William making out with Penelope. Anne finds Frederick and they kiss, ending the scene. The film later ends with William marrying Lady Penelope while Louisa is engaged to Captain Benwick and Anne and Frederick spend time in the fields together, in the same way, the film started. 

The plot of this novel adaptation is not written with precision and offers some major blunders and the casting choices do not reflect the reality of the times. Nevertheless, Dakota Johnson manages to hold the ship afloat with her enigmatic acting.