The Deep End of the Ocean: the movie’s emotional ending, explained

By Harneet Kaur — ON Jun 20, 2022
The Deep End of the Ocean
Sony Pictures

Based on Jacquelyn Mitchard’s 1996 best-seller book by the same name, The Deep End of the Ocean is a beautiful movie of family, love, loss and reunion.

The article contains spoilers, so proceed carefully!

The day of the incident

Beth Cappadora, a professional photographer, goes to her High School reunion from Wisconsin to Chicago with her three kids. The oldest, Vincent (7), Ben (3) and Kerry, a baby. Once she reaches The Addison Hotel, she’s greeted by her school friend Ellen, who helps with the kids while Beth unloads.

The hotel lobby is crowded and Beth has to go make reservations. Kerry has already gone away with Ellen and the babysitter, Beth instructs Vincent to keep hold of Ben’s hand and stay put by their bags while she goes and pays. After she returns back to where she left her kids, she finds Ben missing.

A frantic search begins for the missing kid

Jimmy, school friend and detective, begins an official search. He calls up the police and his detective supervisor Candy Bliss for help. Statements are taken, interviews are done but in vain. Soon, Beth’s husband Pat and his parents come. Hours go by with no news about the child. Beth finally breaks down in the hotel lobby and is given drugs. Eventually, the search dwindled out after six weeks.

Back home and the cracks in the family

There are visible tensions within the family with Beth unable to cope from the incident. She spends her day sleeping and neglects her kids and job. Vincent is seen taking care of Kerry. There are also tensions within Pat and Beth’s marital life.

Soon, time passes and wounds start to heal a bit. The family moves to Chicago to fulfil Pat’s dream of having a restaurant. Vincent is a teen and gets into troubles here and there. Beth started living better and even started working again.

A mysterious boy knocks on their door one fine day and everything changes

One day, there’s a knock on the door which Kerry answers. When Beth comes down, she sees Kerry talking to a boy who looks eerily similar to Ben. He, Sam Karras, is there to offer his lawn mowing service and Beth readily accepts and as he comes, keeps on clicking his pictures.

In the investigation, there was a timeline capture of Ben’s 3 year old face and what it would look like at the age of around 8. Both that picture, and Sam’s face match. Beth and Pat call Candy and they agree to proceed with the investigation.

His fingerprint scans match with Ben’s. The police and Beth go to his home, just 2 blocks away from hers. There, she recognizes her High School classmate Cecil Lockhart’s picture. Sam’s father reveals that he adopted Sam after he and Cecil married.

Candy lets the family know that Cecil was dealing with mental health issues after her child died, who was the same age as Ben. When she saw Ben at the reunion, she kidnapped him and went away, lying to the police. She committed suicide a few years back. Sam, or Ben, is then sent to live with the Cappadora’s

Sam’s adjustment with his new reality

Sam doesn’t remember anything from his past. He faces difficulty and discomfort. He finds familiarity with some fragrances, but with no big impact. Soon, Sam is seen as breaking out of the house and going back to live with his adoptive father, George, who brings him back.

On a trip with Beth to click some photos, he tells her that there is nothing worse than being sad, and sometimes, the only way to get rid of it is death. Beth, moved by this, decides to send him back to live with George. A decision which causes a huge rift between her and Pat.

The family drama concludes on an emotional note

Vincent gets into trouble and is sent into a 2 day custody. Sam comes to visit him and tells him that he remembers a cedar wood smell and remembers feeling safe in the past since he trusted Vincent to come for him. He has had a flashback.

This small flashback was enough to make him come back to live with the Cappadora’s one night. Sam and George have talked about all this and George was the one who dropped him off. Vincent apologizes to Sam because on the day he went missing, he was the one who dropped his hand and told him to get lost. Sam laughs it off. A happy and emotional Beth and Pat look out from the window.

Talking to Entertainment Weekly on how difficult it was for her to watch child kidnapping movies, but then producing and acting in one, Pfieffer said that, “There were times during production when I said to myself, ‘Why am I doing this? What was I thinking?’ There were scenes that were excruciating to film.”