God’s Crooked Lines is one of the most cryptic and confusing movies of 2022. Directed by Oriol Paulo, it landed on Netflix in December and immediately triggered a lively debate among viewers about what the truth in the movie can be. The film is based on the book of the same name published by the Spanish writer Torcuato Luca de Tena in 1979 (the original title is Los renglones torcidos de Dios). Differently from the novel, the movie leaves an open end that allows the viewer to doubt still and side with one version of the truth or another. The book reveals how things went, and although you may find many incomplete articles on the Internet avoiding providing precise answers, in this article, you will find the story and the ending explained the way the book does.
You can watch the official trailer for God’s Crooked Lines below.
God’s Crooked Lines explained: the movie’s plot
In the movie God’s Crooked Lines, Alice does her best to convince everybody (including us) that she’s not an actual patient of the mental health institute. Initially, she entered the institute as an investigator hired by Raimundo García del Olmo to find out what happened to his son, who died in that facility some months earlier. In the movie’s second part, the institute’s director Dr. Alvar proves her story wrong by introducing her to the real Raimundo García del Olmo, a person Alice doesn’t actually recognize. From that moment on, Alice rethinks her whole story and finds another explanation to support her truth, which is precisely what was written in her diagnosis by her doctor, Dr. Donadío.
During the movie, the spectator is always aware that both versions can be accurate: no decisive element could prove one version wrong. That goes on until the very last scene, where we have the final plot twist: after the medical council votes to discharge Alice, Dr. Alvar invites Dr. Donadío in, and we discover that he’s the one who brought Alice to the institute in the film’s beginning. That contradicts Alice’s version, and we can see Alice’s face panicking, immediately trying to find a new explanation for the events to avoid admitting she’s mentally ill.
The movie ends in that scene, leaving, in fact, the interpretation open to both versions: the viewers could decide that Alice is really crazy and keeps inventing brilliant stories that justify the situation depicting her as a healthy person, or they can believe that she was framed, and there is an explanation for Donadío’s appearance in the last frame (maybe he was paid to show up and prevent Alice to leave the institute?). The film God’s Crooked Lines has not explained where the truth is.
What many don’t know is that the book ends differently and explains the truth in detail. Let’s discover what happened to Alice.
The book ending: is Alice really crazy?
In the book by Torcuato Luca de Tena, Dr. Donadío never shows up inside the institute nor speaks to the medical council. After the council votes for Alice’s discharge, there is a thorough investigation led by Detective María Luisa Fernández. She will be the one hearing Dr. Donadío and reporting the truth to the institute’s doctors: this is how we find the truth in God’s Crooked Lines, explained.
The truth is that Alice, indeed, suffers from paranoia. She’s a wealthy woman married to Heliodoro, and after she discovers that he doesn’t love her and married her only for money, she begins losing her mental health. Her husband starts stealing her money and turns her property into a brothel; his evil behavior drives her crazy. She really attempts to poison him, and he will call Dr. Donadío for help.
Dr. Donadío will spend a significant time in Alice and Heliodoro’s home, carefully monitoring her behavior. In that period, Alice starts addressing Dr. Donadío as Mr. García del Olmo, and the doctor understands that she’s building an alternative version of the truth to avoid accepting what’s going to happen: Donadío’s diagnosis of paranoia is accurate, and his decision to bring her to the institute is for her and others’ safety. Alice made up the investigation story so she could enter the institute believing she was not crazy, and then made up a new version of the truth supporting her health again, precisely as Dr. Donadío predicted in his diagnosis. Alice was so brilliant that she convinced everybody to trust her version. Only Dr. Alvar didn’t fall into her trap.
The book ends with an unexpected final: after hearing the truth, the medical council will reunite again and vote a second time about Alice’s destiny. Analyzing her story, they decide that the cause that triggered Alice’s paranoia no longer exists, as her husband flew away with her money. Assessing Alice’s present conditions, they conclude that she deserves a second chance to live normally, trusting her ability to keep her latent paranoia under control with her natural skills. Therefore, the council confirms her discharge in the second vote.
The book ends with Alice stepping out of the institute, realizing the truth of her story, and panicking: she doesn’t feel ready to live normally in the outer world, finally accepting her illness. She doesn’t trust her ability to stay mentally balanced and asks to come back inside the institute.
What’s the message behind God’s Crooked Lines?
While writing God’s Crooked Lines, Torcuato Luca de Tena drew inspiration from his personal experience as a volunteer in a psychiatric hospital. As he states in the book’s dedication:
God’s crooked lines are, indeed, very crooked. Exemplary men and women, tenacious and even heroic, seek to straighten them out. Sometimes they succeed. The deep admiration for his work during my voluntary stay in a psychiatric hospital added to the gratitude and respect that I have always experienced for the medical establishment. Hence, I dedicate these pages to physicians, nurses, caretakers, caretakers, and other professionals who spend their lives in the noble and earnest service of Nature’s most hapless errors.
“God’s Crooked Lines” reference the existence of individuals like the ones living in psychiatric institutes. Most of the world rejects and isolates them, but from his experience, the novelist learned that every person has a story that deserves to be discovered. The book, therefore, intends to return dignity back to the patients in the mental institutes, that are not simply “crazy people” but individuals with a backstory and a set of reasons that led them to that conditions. With his novel, de Tena invites everybody to open their minds and try to scratch under the surface of what we don’t understand. At the same time, the book is a tribute to all those medical professionals who dedicate their passion to caring about others without prejudices.