Landed on Netflix in October 2023, Fair Play represents an intense psychological thriller that challenges the viewers for most of its plot. The movie faces the mechanisms that sometimes take place inside a couple, especially when it comes to success, achievements, and pride. Emily and Luke are depicted as two mature people entirely in love with each other, but a slight change in their lives triggers the tragedy. The shocking ending left many questions unanswered, and the film’s meaning may need to be explained. Let’s explore it together.
You can watch the official trailer for Fair Play here on Youtube.
Fair Play ending explained: Emily & Luke, the movie’s meaning
When the movie Fair Play begins, Emily and Luke seem the perfect couple. Their passion is apparent; they have sex in the bathroom of a restaurant and caught by surprise, Luke even proposes to Emily, asking her to marry him. They both work in a hedge fund firm in the same position, but there is no competition between them. When one of the PMs gets fired, Emily hears a rumor: Luke may be the one who will be promoted, substituting him. She’s happy for him, he’s optimistic about what will happen, and everything seems just perfect.
However, that night, the surprise arrives for both: not Luke, but Emily will be promoted, becoming the new PM and Luke’s boss. As a first reaction, Luke is happy: the roles are inverted, but nothing else changes, and there is no reason to feel bad or disappointed. Nevertheless, things quickly deteriorate between them. Emily makes a wrong investment under Luke’s suggestion, and the firm blames her for what she did. She also discovers that the company doesn’t consider Luke a worthy employee: the board is just waiting for him to quit spontaneously. All this points to a clear conclusion: Emily is better than Luke and the other male colleagues in her job; she’s been promoted only because of her merit.
But what the movie Fair Play has explained in its plot and ending is that this simple truth is tough to swallow for the average man. You notice it already the first day Emily steps into her new office, from the colleagues’ comments about “what she must have done to get there.” And the comparison with Emily quickly becomes a problem for Luke, too: a growing resentment arises between them, and their relationship progressively falls apart.
When we arrive at the ending of Fair Play, Emily and Luke symbolize a social problem that needs to be explained in detail. Luke shows his inability to manage the comparison with Emily. He messes up his role at work and his romantic relationship, putting even Emily’s career at risk. In a dramatic scene at their failed engagement party, Luke even uses violence against Emily, representing his innate need to assert dominance.
There is an interesting interview with the movie director, Chloe Domont, published by Entertainment Weekly after the movie was released. You can find it here. In the interview, the director explained how, in the film Fair Play, the ending and the meaning are all about male ego. Men are portrayed as fragile characters who struggle to accept that a woman can simply be better than them. There are many signs in the movie proving that Emily is better than Luke, but it is so hard to accept that he enters a spiral of accusations and denial with the only goal of finding a different explanation.
This is how the movie director, Chloe Domont, explained the meaning of Fair Play:
“It’s about getting this man to own up to his inferiority, because his inability to face that causes so much destruction in the film for both her and himself. This isn’t really a film about female empowerment. This is a film about male fragility. The whole film builds up to that last line where she forces him to finally acknowledge that he’s nothing.”
The director added a personal perspective on this subject, taken from her personal experience:
“We’re all afraid to talk about it, because the male ego feels like something that is off limits. Women are taught to walk on eggshells trying to protect it. The reason why I made this film is because I had been experiencing these situations over and over again in relationships, and it was never anything that we could talk about. It got to a place that felt untenable for me emotionally, because if you don’t talk about it, you normalize it. And when you normalize it, it creates this poison not only in your own body, but in the relationship and that bond.”
That’s why the ending scene of Fair Play is so violent: the fight between Emily and Luke, with her threatening to stab him if he doesn’t admit he’s nothing, has explained how the female protagonist finds no other solution than violence to solve the conflict. Emily had no intentions to fix her relationship with Luke. She only wanted to make things right, forcing him to admit that his ego ruined everything. And the only thing that makes Luke collapse is fear, physical force, and visible domination. Once the goal is achieved, when Luke says, “I’m nothing,” and starts crying, Emily asks him to leave, and the movie ends. Fair Play has an abrupt ending, but that’s the way it has explained to us the authentic nature of the conflict between Emily and Luke.