Just in case you didn’t read the intro, here’s a link. if you have already read this one, here’s Part 2, from the point of view of Teddy Daniels. And again,this post is basically entirely one BIG Spoiler. so…spoiler alert.
Shutter island is a very open ended film. for the sake of keeping our sanity let’s set some ground rules. I will refrain from calling DiCaprio’s character Teddy Daniels, as in this post, he’s a personality made up to cope with the past. The main character of this story is Andrew Laeddis.
Things to remind you before we move on:
- Andrew Laeddis (DiCaprio) is a demented Shutter Island Patient. He made up a personality, nicknamed Teddy Daniels, to cope with the fact that he killed his wife after she drowned their children.
- Andrew went to WW2, but not everything he says about it is true. He might or might not have killed people. According to Cawleys file, His wife Dolores was emotionally and later mentally unstable due to Andrew’s absence and drinking problems. She burned their apartment down and was brought to a house by a lake by Andrew. She later drowned her 3 children, and was killed by Andrew Laeddis, who shot her in the gut.
- When Andrew takes on the personality of Teddy, he is haunted by another Andrew Laeddis, who is the man who killed his wife, according to him, by burning their apartment down. This is how he denies his murder.
- As a final desperate attempt to destroy Andrew’s made-up personality, Dr. Cawley (Kingsley) sets up an elaborate Role playing game in which most patients, doctors, guards, and staff play their parts and pretend that Andrew is not a patient. They feed his alternate personality, Teddy Daniels, the detective who is out to uncover the conspiracy of shutter island. This way they can out him and hopefully he himself can find the lie in his own contradicting personality.
- Dr. Sheehan (Ruffalo), who has been Andrew’s personal psychologist for two years, is taking a major part in this role-playing game as Chuck, the made-up detectives “Partner.”
- Other characters, including The Warden and Dr. Geoffrey Neehring (Max V. Sydow) are against the entire role playing game, and also against Cawleys passive methods of treatment.
- Andrew Laeddis has been helped before, and has been thought to be better. However, his personality comes back or “resets.” and it’s back to square one again. He has in fact had a fight with George Noyce, who called him Andrew Laeddis while he was pretending to be his other personality.
We will go from here, from introduction to end. Keep in mind that the problem with both plots is that you have to ignore certain parts of the other. The people who we believe and the people who are lying change from plot to plot as do their intentions, and the important images we see and lines we hear have to be interpreted differently. I will call out every little important detail and at times, what it means in this plot. Here we go.
Andrew Laeddis, The Shutter Island Patient
- Andrew “resets” on the boat. He throws a splash of water on his face and looks at the mirror. He has a headache already due to not being on his meds (Withdrawal) and also has a bandage on his head, possibly from the fight he had with George Noyce. Once he passes by the restraints on the boat (it’s an asylum boat) He meets Dr. Sheehan and asks him if he’s his new partner as if he’s never seen his own doctor before. Andrew explains that he hates water (due to his wife’s memory.) They have a small conversation and Sheehan gets on his good side by calling Andrew a legend. He gives him a cigarette. Andrew mentions that Sheehan character is from Portland but Dr. Sheehan has heard all this before in their sessions, so he corrects him, “I came from Seattle.”
- Dr. Sheehan triggers a flashback by asking Andrew if he was married. Andrew sees the image of his wife giving him the tie he’s wearing (The tie he got committed to the asylum with.) Then, a flash of the water next to the boat and his disturbed face. This is a thought of his wife, drowning her children. He shakes off the thought of killing her and says “She died in a fire that killed 4 people. It was the smoke that got her… That’s important.” Why is it important? because he needs to add unimportant details to her death, so that he can investigate and give himself something to do to tell himself he didn’t kill her.
- They close in on the harbor and Dr. Sheehan and him talk about the missing patient. Rachel Solondo. The “Reason” they’re there.
- They get to the harbor and meet Deputy Mcpherson. Even though he knows Andrew, jokes by saying he’s never seen a marshal’s badge before. The guards all know Andrew is dangerous, and look at him as if he should be in chains. Andrew notices and calls it out. Mcpherson says “Everyone’s on edge today.
- When passing by the fence, Andrew calls out that it’s electrified. “How do you know?” says Sheehan. Andrew says he’s seen them before. Perhaps he tried to escape through them.
- They get their guns taken away by the deputy, even though they’re hard plastic guns. I assume the deputy has to play the part of assuming the guns are real, to make it more realistic. Dr. Sheehan has trouble taking off his gun, and Andrew notices.
The Island: Day 1.
- “Dr. Cawley created something really unique here,” Says Mcpherson. He means a place that actually cares about patients enough to have an elaborate role playing game. The patients seem calm and easy to deal with.
- On their way in, They see a patient, who after seeing Andrew, puts her finger over her mouth as if they’re playing a game, and she’s not supposed to say anything.
- They go in Dr. Cawley’s office and see pictures hung up on the walls. They depict lobotomies and disturbing images of experimental surgeries. Dr. Cawley walks in and they start a conversation where he speaks about the importance of the place. In the conversation, he asks about the patient, calling her prisoner. He considers the place a prison for himself. He also says he’s against the treatment of dangerous patients. He says this due to his alternate personality wanting to kill Andrew.
- Dr. Cawley mentions that Rachel Solondo drowned her three children, and this gives Teddy pause due to his real personality. He is told that her husband died in the beaches of Normandy. When he is shown two pictures of Rachel, he has strong flashbacks of his time in the war (which might be real or not), followed by hard headaches due to the withdrawal.
- After getting pills, Dr. Cawley explains how Rachel thinks that everyone in the place is Postmen and regular citizens. Andrew chuckles, and Sheehan looks worried, as if starting to hint at it this early on is too risky, or as if he’s insulting his patient. Cawley says that Rachel “Evaporated right through the walls.” This is another joke as to the ridiculousness of Andrew’s game.
- He’s escorted to the missing patients room. When looking through her room, he finds a paper that says “The rule of 4. Who is Patient 67.” This is an attempt to make Andrew see the rule of 4, where his name is made up, and so is Rachel’s. All anagrams for real names. Patient 67 is him and he doesn’t know it yet.
- Teddy asks for everyone’s files and Cawley denies him access for obvious reasons (hes a patient!). He instead offers him to interview everyone later. He tells Andrew to help the Deputy searching the cliffs. (this is probably so he can go over the scenario of role play with Glen and the staff.)
- They make it to the Cliffs and the Deputy tells them there’s no way she could’ve survived making it to the cliffside caves. There’s poison Ivy and she’s barefoot. Andrew sees the Lighthouse for the first time. They go back and by then the staff is ready to be interviewed.
- Andrew goes back with Sheehan and interviews Glen, one of the lookouts. Once they find out Glen breaks protocol, they can assume Rachel sneaked out. Then doctor Sheehan is mentioned by someone else and Andrew wonders where this Dr. Sheehan is, so to avoid bringing it all to a halt, they say Dr. Sheehan is on vacation. After a false attempt to reach Dr. Sheehan, they meet Dr. Naehring.
- When they meet Dr. Naehring, some very noticeable things take place. They talk about what Naehring calls Andrew’s “Defense Mechanisms.” It looks as though Dr. Naehring is getting a rise out of Andrew because he’s had sessions with him and knows his anger. He even knows certain specific things about him, such as him being a “man of violence.” There’s a small part where Andrew gives pause, trying to find out who the president is as if he doesn’t know. Sheehan helps him out by mentioning Hoover. After the argument, he goes to his sleeping quarters.
THE FIRST DREAM: Where things get interesting.
- In the dream, Andrew starts off with his wife nagging about his drinking. He sees his wife and she has a huge burn on her back. This is him fighting his subconcious with Teddy’s fantasy. Ashes fall from the roof and she says “Laeddis is here, he never left.” meaning, he’s still somewhere in Andrews mind. “You remember our summer in the cabbin?” she says, while being held (The cabbin where she drowned the kids.) Water suddenly comes out of her belly, followed by blood. Her sins, followed by his murder. He fights his real subconscious thoughts and she turns into ashes in his hands. The apartment turns on fire. He wakes up with water in his hands from a leak.
The Island, Day 2:
- Cowley picks Andrew up and they talk on the way to the interviews. Cowley explains how he is extremely against the idea of lobotomies and experimental drugs. He thinks he can reach the patient just by understanding them. (That’s why he’s doing what he’s doing perhaps?)
- They get to the interview, and Andrew talks to Peter first, who is extremely annoying. He talks about Rachel but Andrew knows deep down Rachel is just his wife, so he takes offence. Somehow, he knows to scratch the pencil on the paper to annoy the patient. Did he know him before?
- He then interviews another patient, Kearns. The famous water glass scene happens. During the interview, we see the water in her glass disappear and appear again. This is Laeddis blocking out the water in his mind. While Sheehan gets a glass of water, she passes him the note that says RUN on it. She does this because she feels bad for Andrew, and she wants him to leave. maybe she likes him and knows there’s no hope.
- In each interview, he asks the patients if they know Andrew Laeddis. Kearns respoinds almost crying, because she knows it’s him. Sheehan asks who “Andrew Laeddis” is and Andrew tells him the fake story about how he burned his wife. Once they leave the interviews, they go out and Andrew mentions he’s not there to kill Laeddis. He’s there because George Noyce told him about a conspiracy. He makes up George Noyce is a person who led him there, and he’s in Ward C (but he’s really a patient.) where they can’t go. Sheehan feeds the fake personality by saying “what if they wanted you here, and it’s all a conspiracy to get you!”
- The storm blows the doors open. Andrew has a flashback of the war with a young frozen girl in a red dress and her mom, in a pile of frozen bodies fallen off trains. Jewish victims from the second World War. The storm gets worst and they’re found by the deputy, who takes them back indoors.
The Conference Room:
- Andrew and Sheehan enter a room where a meeting is happening. Dr. Naehring wants the patients in restraints. Cowley does not because he’s a humanitarian.
- Andrew is told that Rachel was finally found. When he meets her, one of the staff acts as if she’s crazy to convince him she’s Rachel. Teddy is disturbed by her love as she pretends he’s her husband and her story, as she reminds him on his wife. Memory strikes him. The withdrawal strikes again and he is taken away, given pills and sent to sleep.
THE SECOND DREAM:
- Andrew is walking through a World War 2 Camp and he sees the mom and child again. This time, it’s Rachel and the girl. He suddenly walks into an office where the made up version of Andrew Laeddis is sitting. His rendition of this character is scarred and fully formed to represent his past, and his future as he holds matches up later. He flashes his alcohol bottle and says it was nothing personal (this is Andrew trying to alleviate himself from some pain.) suddenly he turns into Dr. Sheehan. He hears a scream and sees Rachel, bloodied up, with his three children at her feet. He cries and helps Rachel (who is another version of his wife) put the three children in the river. (This is him admitting to himself is just as much his fault as hers.) He wakes up in another dream where he sees his wife coming from the rain. “Why you all wet baby?” He asks (the question he asks when he gets home to find she drowned the kids.) Dolores tells him to kill Laeddis.
- Andrew wakes up with a migraine. Sheehan tells him that Ward C is open due to the storm breaking the walls. When in ward C, they’re found by a guard who lets them go. A chase leads to him being separated from Sheehan. This might be all part of the plan. George Noyce can be heard whispering “Laeddis.” Andrew follows the voice and finds George, who is all beat up. George Noyce’s most meaningful lines are “You did this to me!” which means, you beat me up for calling you Laeddis. “I’m back here because of you.” meaning in Ward C. He also mentions the role-playing game when he says “All this is a game. It’s for you. You’re not investigating anything, you’re a rat in a maze.” Finally he tells him what he has to do to be sane again. He says “You can’t dig out the truth and kill Laeddis at the same time. You have to let her go.” Noyce finally tells him to not trust his doctor because he’s not his partner, and to go to the lighthouse, where Dr. Cawley is waiting for him to give him the big reveal.
- Andrew makes it to the cliffs, where he separates from Sheehan, who was trying to give him a piece of paper showing that HE HIMSELF was the 67th patient. he drops it as he tries to climb down. Then, after seeing a light in one of the caves he climbs in it. He finds Rachel Solondo #2, who is an illusion he made up in his head, that tells him it’s all a conspiracy, feeding his insanity. Therefore, this scene should be ignored as it takes place in the main characters fractured mind.
- Andrew climbs back up and walks back, convinced his illusion was right. Once on the road he’s found by the Warden, whom we saw before in the film only for a glimpse. He talks to him about how violent he is deep down inside. “We’ve known each other for centuries.” says the Warden.
- Once inside the asylum, Cawley becomes impatient with the progress Andrew has made. He tells him some abrupt truths. He tells him he doesn’t have a partner, tells him that George Noyce is a paranoid schizophrenic, and tells him that he’s “Looking for an insane patient. Andrew Laeddis.” Cawley goes away after saying “I’ve been working hard on something you wouldn’t understand, and I’m not going to give up without a fight,” and Andrew sneaks past a guard and into a hall.
- Andrew makes it down the hall when he sees Dr. Naehring, holding a syringe full of an unknown sedative. When fought by Andrew, who now holds the sytinge against the doctor’s chest, the doctor says “Wounds create monsters Marshal… and when you see a monster, don’t you agree you should stop it?” This shows Naehrings thoughts towards Andrew are hostile. He sees him as a threatening man with no hope for potential help.
- Andrew sees his wife, but at this point he tries to block her out. He starts seeing his daughter with her. He uses his wifes gift (The tie) to burn the car and create a distraction. He then goes to the lighthouse.
- When he finally makes it to the lighthouse, the first words he hears are “Why you all wet baby?” he responds by being puzzled.
- Andrew tells Cawley that he thinks they’ve been slipping him drugs since Boston for two years. Cawley assures him what he’s having is Withdrawal. The shaky hands, the illusions coming back and the head aches are all withdrawal symptoms. He then gives him the sheet of paper and reveals he’s the 67th patient, and has been for 2 years.
- They explain the rule of 4, in which Andrew made up the name Edward Daniels out of his name and Rachel Solondo out of his wife’s name, using the same letters. this is too much of a coincidence to be made up.
- Cawley and Sheehan know every detail of his story due to the fact that they’ve been treating him for two years. They even know about his war experience. They reveal that he beat up Laeddis. He even knew that Noyce said “You did this.” It might have been in a script that Noyce was told to follow, or he had Sheehan monitoring it. Sheehan comes out and reveals himself as a doctor, and Andrew picks up his service weapon only to find out it’s made of hard plastic. He cannot know the difference in the weight of the weapon because he hasn’t held an actual gun in two years.
- After being shown the pictures of his children and coming to senses with what he did, Cawley says, “Rachel, your daughter, are you going to deny she ever lived?” The daughter is the girl he sees in all the dreams, including the World War 2 dreams. He faints.
THE LAST DREAM:
- In this dream, Andrew wears a different tie. This is because this is before he was thrown in the mental facility for killing her, and it’s a memory rather then a dream. “Baby, why you all wet?” he says when he gets home and sees her sitting. “Where are the kids?” She says they’re in school but it’s a Saturday, he turns to the lake and sees them floating, and takes them all out. Dolores keeps talking and he tells her to shut up. He pulls out his revolver, holds her, and shoots her in the gut… Her body falls on the ground and the blood goes up to her neck. Before the scene cuts, she looks a bit like Rachel in the second dream. He wakes up, yelling “Rachel!”
- “Rachel who?” asks Cawley. “Rachel Laeddis, my daughter,” says Andrew after a pause. He finally came to terms with it. “Why are you here?” asks Cawley. “Because I killed my wife after she murdered our children.”
- Andrew finally admits that he killed his wife, and made up all the personalities because he couldn’t cope with what he had done. Dr. Cawley, although delighted to hear it, tells him how they made all that progress before, but he “reset” and digressed back to his fantasy randomly. “I don’t remember that,” says Andrew, which is why he doesn’t remember anyone at the beginning of the film. He finally thanks the good doctor for his help.
ANDREW GIVES UP:
- Andrew sits with Dr. Sheehan at the steps, right before they make a decision of what to do with him. Dr. Sheehan asks “So what’s our next move?” Andrew accepts his cigarette and says, “We gotta get off this rock, Chuck.” This informs Sheehan that Andrew has yet again digressed, and is showing his other personalities again. He shakes his head at Dr. Cawley. Dr. Naehring bows his head as if he knew it was hopeless and they had been wasting time. Cawley looks speechless and turns away, and the warden smiles, as he knew the violence could not be stripped from the beast.
- “You know, this place makes me wonder… What would be worst. To live as a monster, or to die as a good man?”
The meaning of it all:
What the line means in this timeline is that Andrew is actually cured. He’s admitted to everything. However, since he fully knows what he’s done, he can’t live with it. He can’t cope without his fantasy even now. At this point, he decides to die as Teddy, the good man, then live his whole life feeling like the monster who drove his wife to murder, and then murdered her himself. The film becomes about facing (or not being able to) face your sins. What can you do when every horrible thing you witnessed in life haunts you? And so Andrew gives in, not strong enough to come to terms with what he did. He walks towards the lighthouse, accepting his fate.
Problems with this timeline:
- To believe in this completely, you have to ignore the entire scene in the cave and pass it off as not true at all. The scene becomes unimportant, so why is it there and lasts so damn long, unlike the fake Andrew Laeddis who lasts about 20 seconds on screen.
- In this story, the World War 2 memories that Andrew has are not nearly as important. They only serve to tell you the man went to the war and saw something disturbing. For that and to hide his daughter in his subconscious even more. Also, if he does have WW2 experience, why can’t he tell his gun is plastic/ceramic by it’s weight and texture? it seems this would be obvious for a seasoned veteran.
- If the doctors of the mental institution are trying to help Andrew defeat his illusion and get rid of his story that he’s Teddy Daniels, and that Rachel Solondo is missing, then why do they feed his fantasy of being a detective, and continue feeding it rather then slowly taking it away? There’s even the scene with Andrew and Dr. Sheehan in the cemetery. In the scene, Sheehan suggests a conspiracy saying, “What if they wanted you here!? you and me, and now they have us!” and by the look of it, it had not even crossed through Andrew’s head. Trying to get rid of insanity by feeding it seems like a bit of a dumb process to me. This is my biggest problem with this timeline.
- Although it’s all an elaborate plan to get him well again, is it realistically how far they went to keep feeding him the role-play? How did they go with the storm, knowing that it was going to keep going and eventually take out a wall from Ward C. They let him lose at certain points without knowing exactly what he’d do, as he was becoming unpredictable. This, plus the entire asylum (Including insane people) playing their roles perfectly, seems as coincidental as the rule of 4 being a coincidence in the other timeline.
- A lot of people say that one big thing that bothers Andrew Laeddis is water, since he’s trying to forget that his wife murdered the children. There’s the sea sickness at the beginning and the fact that he sees water in his dreams, and finally the fact that he sees the water in a glass appear and disappear as if trying to block it out… However, he walks through heavy rain, takes showers, throws water in his face, and hangs off the side of a cliff next to the ocean with no second thought at times. This doesn’t make sense if he’s really afraid and tries to block out water.
The next timeline (Conspiracy) is actually even more interesting as it goes into the film more psychologically. It’ll be interesting to see and compare both together. That’ll be coming soon.