Downhill Ending Explained: Cliche Family Drama Yet Entertaining Comedy

Based on the 2014 Swedish flick’ Force Majeure,’ ‘Downhill’ tells the tale of an American couple, Pete and Billie Stanton. They move to Ischgl, Austria, for a ski vacation with their two boys (Julian Grey & Ammon Jacob Ford). One day, while the family is having food, a torrent suddenly occurs. Pete leaves his family and seeks shelter for himself.

While it turns out to be a managed one set off for the visitors’ enjoyment, it has left a huge impact on the Stanton family. The film came out on February 14, 2020, and is directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. Both Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus give understated performances in their roles, although there are numerous very funny moments scattered throughout the film.


Plot Synopsis

Pete and Billie have been married for a long time. Both of their sons are teens, and they have this sense of comfortability around each other, which is generally emitted by people who have been together for a considerate time. Having lost his father recently, Pete has been forced to deal with the idea of his death. He keeps scrolling on the Instagram feed of a work-friend named Zach (Zach Woods). He is making his way through Europe with his girlfriend Rosie (Zoë Chao). There is a sense of envy there.

Image: Amazon Prime Videos

Pete finds himself vicariously experiencing through Zach. When the torrent incident happens, it compels both him and Billie to confront some uncomfortable marriage issues. The explosive argument that was meant to happen shortly after the experience simmers for a while inside the two protagonists before it rushes out in a torrential fashion during a conversation with Zach and Rosie, who have come to Ischgl on Pete’s invitation.

Downhill- Ending Explained

There is a sense of desire in Pete as a character that Billie and their children often mistake as disinterest in their choices and even well-being, especially after the torrent. The loss of his father has made him very consious that he, too, is growing older. 

For Pete, this trip was meant to serve as a form of affirmation of his control over his own life, but things do not go well. His attempt to ski down a sheer path ends in him falling down the hill. A woman reaches out him to tell him that her friend likes how he carries himself. When he starts flirting back, he finds out that the woman who came him had mistaken him for another man.

He and Zach go to a nightclub in the evening, quickly becoming drunk, prompting Zach to leave with him. He speaks his heart out during that drunken stupor as he and Zach take a walk back to their motel. When he eventually admits that he had panicked and drove away during the torrent. Billie tells him that he would have said it during their first argument about the issue and goes away. With his family increasingly shutting him out, Pete can finally see that many of his actions were due to selfishness, and he tries to mend that.

Billie is an image of something perfect. She stays on the table with her arms wrapped around her two sons as the torrent is about to hit. Unlike Pete, she is not going through a mid-life crisis. She doesn’t put her own needs before her children. As much as they did to Pete’s impulses and understood disinterest, the two boys respond to it. After the torrent, they grow far from their father and cling close to their mother.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell in the film DOWNHILL.
Image: Amazon Prime Videos


The movie’s climax begins as the family prepares to ski down a mountain known as ‘The Beast.’ Since he arrived in Ischgl, Pete has been talking about skiing. While they went to the top of the hill, one of the boys, Emerson, admits that he hates skiing. A blast goes off in the distance, signaling another controlled torrent, and both the children again tun to their mother. Pete realizes that it will take a long to earn back their trust and respect. He declares that he is done skiing for the trip and takes the boys to the mountain’s foot to wait for Billie.

She doesn’t show up when she was ought to. Pete and the boys get tensed. Pete hears her calling out his name and begins walking uphill, looking for her. When he finds her, she seems to be alright. She explains that she did this on purpose to help him win back the boys’ trust and respect. But as far as their relationship goes, he has to show his total willingness to be part of the family. He agrees, and on her suggestion, picks her up in his arms. As he carries her downhill, they are met with their relieved children.

Unusual Final Scene Twist

It is revealed in the movie’s closing scenes that there is more complexity in Billie than meets the eye. We got a flash of that earlier during her brief encounter with the ski-instructor Guillermo. Even during the big debate between her and Pete, she pulled their two children into the discussion. This is once more underscored at the very end. While talking with Zach and Rosie, a pile of snow nearly falls on them, but they jump away from each other, saving themselves. It’s a smart way to end the film, showing that even Billie isn’t perfect. Faced with an almost similar situation, she makes the same choice as Pete.

And then, there is the other couple. Zach and Rosie’s relationship serves as an important subplot in the film. Zach is not as happy as he claims himself to be. He wants kids, but Rosie doesn’t. He wants to live close to his family in the US, but Rosie intends to stay in Europe. Rosie even tells Billie that if Zach did something as offensive as Pete, she will first hurt him and leave him. For her, “it’s all black and white.” However, when the pile of snowfalls, she and Zach jump away from each other, just like the Stantons. A lot of self-reflection is involved shortly in each of these characters.

Is this a true story

No, ‘Downhill’ is not based on a true story. It is an American remake of Ruben Ostlund’s internationally acclaimed and award-winning dark comedy, ‘Force Majeure.’ Ostlund’s film follows the same premise and centers around a Swedish vacation in the French Alps.

Much like ‘Force Majeure,’ most of Ostlund’s work centers around sociological themes experienced by anyone. According to him, dilemmas are the starting point for all his projects. These usually involve characters facing the consequences of a split-second decision as they try to avoid losing face. Ostlund’s ‘Force Majeure’ is widely considered his breakout film and was heavily influenced by his own life and experiences with skiing and his long history of working as a director of ski films.

Downhill is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video with a rating of 4.8/10 IMDb and 37% on Rotten Tomatoes. Stay Tuned with us for more such content! Stay safe

Also Read: Black Box Ending Explained: What Happens To Thomas In The End?


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