Trying to put a label on what type of movie Let Me In is can become quite a bit confusing. From a technical viewpoint, the movie is a romantic horror fantasy thriller with elements of suspense. However, at its core, Let Me In is absolutely a love story, and a beautiful one at that.
Perhaps what is most impressive is that this love story was one that was portrayed by a 13-year-old actress and a 14-year-old actor. And I list them in this order because this is the order in which I was most impressed. Smit-McPhee did an admirable job of enticing us to care and be invested in Owen’s story, but the movie would have done that regardless. Unless the actor were just completely undesirable, we would sympathize with Owen’s situation and want better for him. This is no fault of Smit-McPhee’s; this is simply how the story of Let Me In is told. On the other hand, Abby must earn our emotion and investment. Even more impressive is that Moretz accomplishes this act despite several obstacles in her way. Her first appearance is relatively late into the film, very little is told about who (or what) she is – including her past, and she also kills people. A lot of innocent people. Despite these factors working against her, we still buy into Moretz’s character due to a clever combination of raw talent and innocent charm.
Back to the love story. It is just fun to watch Owen and Abby fall in love with one another. Owen has nobody worth anything in his life. He is brutally bullied at school, his father hasn’t even seen him in months, and his mother drinks entirely too much and only provides for his physical needs (and just barely at that). When this strange girl of the same age (more or less) moves in next door, Owen naturally becomes curious. Despite their meager interactions the first few nights, she is the first person to show any interest in Owen’s life for at least a few months, likely more. An important note to make here is that Abby is truly and genuinely 12-years-old, just like Owen. I know she is actually centuries old (at least 200-years-old), but she is perpetually a 12-year-old child emotionally, physically, and mentally. This allows the love story to be pure. Their story is not one of an older girl manipulating and taking advantage of a young boy. Instead, it is two young children with no one else in their lives finding comfort in one another, a comfort that eventually leads to a pure love that most of us envy. Ok, technically Abby has whoever that old guy is (it seems as if he was once a love of Abby’s), but that relationship has long since dissipated into a coexistence more than anything else. Also, he literally dies about halfway through the film, so Owen is the only person she has left. Anyhow, it is fun to see Owen come alive when he begins to fall for Abby. He learns Morse code during his lonely days at school and excitedly shows her the parts of this town that actually matter to him, including the arcade and Now and Laters (we’ll come back to the candy shortly). We even find him reading Romeo and Juliet on the bus because Abby showed a slight interest in it.
Much like their characters, Abby’s shows of affection are a bit more elusive than those of Owen, but they are still fun to see. My favorite are her subtle glances when they spend time on the jungle gym and the brief, quick smiles Owen seems to coax out of her without even knowing it. She also willingly puts herself at risk by offering to eat a Now and Later because she sees Owen’s disappointment when she initially refuses. Their innocent interactions grow into this pure, beautiful love that was only able to happen because they are both children. Again, it is brilliant story-telling and acting that allow us to lose ourselves in this love story. As I mentioned, Abby kills a lot of people. The body count for a romance that is under two hours long is actually quite impressive (disturbing? Idk, you choose). However, I found myself asking if I even really blamed Abby. This is the only way she knows how to exist. If she wants to live, she needs blood. Now, the boys at the end may not have necessarily deserved the fate Abby delivered them, but it did feel good to see Abby come to Owen’s rescue, especially with that delicate touch on his cheeks and that slight smile he offered in return. I realize there is a book’s worth of refutations for the point I am trying to make, and I would love to hear them. But I request that you read my take on the ending of the movie before you choose to disagree.
There are three ways to interpret the ending of this movie. The first is that Owen runs off with Abby to become the next victim of her peculiar requirements. In other words, he shares the fate of the old man that Abby originally lived with. He hunts for her to provide her the blood necessary to survive, aging into death while Abby remains the exact same. With this take on the ending, it is fair to infer that their relationship ends up just like Abby’s and the old man’s, devoid of meaning and deprived of love. With the evidence provided in the film, this ending is certainly a possibility and lacks any obvious plot holes. However, it is quite sad, which is why I don’t like it as much as the others. Another possibility is a conclusion I reached revolving around the prevalence of Now and Laters in the film. I have watched this movie three times, but only reached this conclusion after my third viewing. The very first time we see Owen, he is eating Now and Laters on the jungle gym. At the arcade, he emphatically states that they are his favorite and wants to share them with Abby. In the final scene, he has a large collection of them on the chest in which Abby travels. As he is eating them, he looks out the window (after communicating in Morse code with Abby) and sings twice, “Eat some now, and save some for later.” Side note: Abby says “hello” and Owen says “OX”, or hug and kiss. The conclusion I reach from this is that Owen and Abby have come to an agreement. He will provide her with the blood she needs from his veins, and neither of them needs to kill so that she may live. With the limited understanding we have of Abby from the movie, I can find no clear refutation as to why this would not work. She does not need a full body of blood each time she eats. Nor does she need to eat every single day. The movie takes place over a little bit more than two weeks. Abby does not drink more than 14 bodies’ worth of blood. She also does not need it directly from the body, as the first body’s blood is collected in a bottle. I can see no reasons why this conclusion would not be possible, especially given the emphasis the movie places on Now and Laters. However, if you see something, please let me know. Although, this ending does still carry the weight of Owen aging and dying while Abby remains the same age. The final interpretation required some outside research. Let Me In is a movie that is based off a book that already had another movie made from it. The original author of the book wrote an epilogue to the story that details the conclusion to Abby (Eli in the book) and Owen’s story. In this conclusion, Eli and Owen are shown several years later in a picture together and neither of them has aged a bit. This more than implies that Eli turned Owen into a vampire once they got away and they are to live eternally with one another. For our purposes, this would mean that Abby turned Owen into a vampire, and they both remain twelve and in love for as long as this world exists. While I like the sentiment, this ending has me conflicted. I like the thought of Abby and Owen living together in love forever, I don’t like the idea of people being killed to sustain the life of others; it is just morally uncomfortable.
Each of the three endings works within the context of the movie, yet none of them leave me completely satisfied. We either have death and loneliness, or happiness together at the cost of an obscene number of lives. I don’t like either of those. However, I must concede that the original author has a specific ending for this story, and it is likely the ending that was intended for this movie. But considering that this was not the ending that was shown to us in the film, we can’t know for sure, which allows us the liberty to wonder. And until we know for certain, wonder I shall.
My name is Chuck, and these are my thoughts. Now I would like to know what you think. Did you find the acting of such young children to be convincing? Did you enjoy the allure of the love story between two very different outcasts? Which ending do you find most believable? Or is there another I haven’t considered? Leave a comment down below, and we’ll talk. Enjoy the day!
Next week: The LEGO Batman Movie