Deadly Illusions is an ambiguous sexy thriller for fans of messy plot twists and beautiful people.
Netflix’s latest guilty pleasure, Deadly Illusions, is a sexy mess, but what fun it is. The Kristin Davis helmed psychological thriller pits two women and a potential couple more personalities against each other in a twisted jumble of steamy mommy porn and shaky mental illnesses. Mary(Kristin Davis) is an author of murder mysteries. She has retired after having twins years ago to raise them. Her husband, Tom(Dermot Mulroney), invested poorly and lost half of their money, forcing Mary to go back to writing. She agrees, and her friend Elaine suggests she hire a nanny. After interviewing numerous duds, Grace arrives, and the two women connect immediately. The remainder of Deadly Illusions plays out like a who-done-it with Mary’s tenuous grasp on reality, making things even murkier. Here’s everything you need to know about that wild ending.
What was wrong with Grace?
Grace has a Dissociative Identity Disorder(DID). She was abused as a child for years and, as a result, split into at least two personalities that we know of. Grace is the gentle, eager to please young girl who Mary hires to care for her children. Grace is locked in adolescence when teens read books by Judy Blume, so her favorite book is Laddie. Mary notes in the beginning that she is naive and innocent. At the end of Deadly Illusions, when Mary visits Grace in the psychiatric facility, she has board games that are more commiserate with a younger girl. The second personality Margaret is the vicious protector who took care of Grace when she was being abused. She is the one who seduced Tom and tried to kill Tom and Mary.
Grace’s aunt also has DID, as witnessed by the distinct voice changes and treatment of the dog. The poor dog is treated kindly by the aunt but abused by the second personality and thus never knows if he will be kicked or kissed. Most experts believe there is no genetic link to DID. The single most significant factor is trauma and when that trauma took place.
What is wrong with Mary and what was real?
The answer is in the early moments of the film. Mary warns everyone that when she is writing, she becomes a different person. It’s easy to write that off as a comment on becoming obsessed with the work, but she is hinting at a real psychological issue. Grace’s arrival at the home triggers her regrets about her wasted youth. Less effective is the idea introduced late that proximity to DID causes it to become more prominent. The storyline with Mary’s investigation and a visit to Grace’s aunt was designed to make the viewer see Grace’s aunt also has split personalities.
According to Elaine’s notes, Mary thought she was having out-of-body experiences. Elaine was concerned this was a result of PTSD. What traumatic event happened, we never find out. While DID is rare, Grace and Mary both may be suffering from it. Mary often loses time, especially when she is around Grace. There were several times Mary thought she was dreaming, but it could have been real. The bathtub scene almost certainly is real as we hear the door close as Mary wakes up. Each time she becomes the “someone else,” she loses time. This is why she feels like she is having an out-of-body experience because the other persona is taking charge.
There are three main types of dissociative disorders. The first Dissociative Amnesia causes memory loss and can occur anytime. The second Depersonalization Disorder makes the sufferer feel as if they are watching something happen to them instead of being a willing participant. Individuals have no control over their thoughts and actions when they are experiencing them. It is rare for the onset to be after 20, but those who suffer from it can have episodes their entire lives. The final is Dissociative Identity Disorder which is what was once called split personality syndrome. Grace has this third type while Mary seems to suffer from the first two.
Tom tells Grace at the end that he didn’t want to play games anymore. If it was all fake, which is what we are led to believe with the cigar-smoking ruse, why would he say that? One interesting thing to note in this scene is that Grace wears the same trenchcoat seen in the surveillance footage and the same one Mary wears at the end of the film. He also says to Mary as he is bleeding in the bathroom, “She seduced me.” Grace and Tom had an affair, but the kitchen scene might have been a figment of Mary’s imagination.
What happened at the end of Deadly Illusions?
Elaine is stabbed with scissors and dies in her office. Mary goes to visit her friend when she couldn’t reach her by phone. She finds her dead, and the police question her because her fingerprints were on the scissors, and there is surveillance footage of a woman that could be Mary leaving Elaine’s office in the middle of the night. In a series of memories and imaginary scenarios, we see Mary puzzle out what she thinks could have happened. Both Mary and Grace had access to the scissors, and since the footage could identify neither, both could be guilty of everything from slashing the bike tires to killing Elaine.
We know that Grace was lying about her employment with the nanny agency and seduced both Tom and Mary. We also know Mary left her bed and smoked a cigar around 1:15 am. Someone messed with her manuscript in the writer’s room, and Tom doesn’t remember Mary coming back to bed for roughly three hours. Mary only remembers being gone briefly unless she is lying.
In the final act, Grace acting as Margaret, attacks Tom and then chases Mary around the kitchen. The two women fight, and Grace interjects, trying to control her other personality until Mary rips a chunk of scalp and hair out with the blender. Grace tries to strangle Mary, but she manages to hit her with a vase. Grace collapses, and presumably, the police and paramedics arrive to arrest Grace and help Tom. Mary’s children play with Elaine’s little boy, which must mean everyone thinks Mary is innocent. Mary puts her finished untitled book on Elaine’s grave and thanks her for overcoming her writer’s block.
Most of what the police concluded is never shown. Tom and Mary appear to be fine and happy with their children. Mary was not arrested for Elaine’s murder. Mary visits Grace in a psychiatric facility. The facility does not appear to be maximum security, so the assumption is she also was not found guilty of Elaine’s murder. Grace is pleased to see her, and there is no sign of Margaret. When Mary leaves, she is wearing the same scarf as the woman on the surveillance footage leaving Elaine’s office.
We don’t know who killed Elaine, but either woman had means. Both women could have left the house and killed her with the scissors. Mary and Grace had access to the trenchcoat, the pocket knife, and the scissors. Grace/Margaret wanted Elaine dead because Elaine suspected she was trouble. Mary didn’t have a motive to kill Elaine beyond her irritation that her friend would accuse her husband of cheating and the fact that she was losing her mind.
The last final wild possibility is that Grace turned into Margaret when Mary visited and killed her. She took her coat and scarf and escaped out of the front door to kill again. That would be the most entertaining, if implausible ending. Whether you think Grace or Mary killed Elaine hardly matters. Both women are deeply troubled.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.