Self-Reliance: A Deep Dive Into the Movie’s Conclusion

Self Reliance, director Jake Johnson’s first film, is now available, however, its conclusion may not be clear to all viewers. The Hulu film centers on Johnson’s Tommy Walcott, a middle-aged man who is having a hard time getting by in life. He lives with his mother, lacks a solid job plan, and is still not over his recent breakup with his ex.

When Tommy is picked up by actor Andy Samberg and informed that he has been selected to play a new game, his life is given a boost of excitement. Later on, it becomes clear that Tommy must survive the competition—hosted on the Dark Web—for 30 days to earn a million dollars. The catch is that during the month, hitmen, or hunters, will be actively attempting to murder him.

Tommy’s Journey in Self-Reliance Movie

self reliance movie ending explained

Nobody who is even remotely familiar with Jake Johnson’s Tommy immediately rejects his assertions. As a result, he befriends people he wouldn’t have otherwise. The first is James, Biff Wiff’s devoted homeless friend, who sticks at Tommy’s side for almost the whole film. The only reason he was taken out of the game for the final few minutes was that the crowd was growing restless.

Tommy also gets a break when he runs into Maddy, played by Anna Kendrick, who also says she is playing the game. The two hit it off and truly begin to bond. She even assists Tommy in moving past his ex-girlfriend and her new child.

Sadly, Maddy’s admission that she was never a part of the game puts a stop to their relationship. All she wanted was to spend more time with people because she was just lonely. Before facing the last leg of the tournament, Tommy even manages to make amends with his father, who has been away for a long time, in a limousine along the road, due to the Dark Web’s game.

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The Ending of Self-Reliance Explained

self reliance movie ending explained

Tommy manages to get into another limousine before the game finishes, meeting up with Andy Samberg once more. The famous person gives him the option to either quit the game and be taken home safely or to continue playing and try to make it to the prize money.

Tommy decides to see his voyage through, and when his thirty days are over, he’s still alive after spending one more night being pursued by a sumo wrestler, a cowboy, and other people. He is the game’s first survivor, as it turns out to be real. Thanks to the prize money, Tommy’s even a little bit richer.

Unfortunately, because the money he earns is delivered to him on Danish Krones, he is not quite a millionaire in the conventional sense. For those who are interested, USD 146,800 is equivalent to one million Danish Krones. Wayne Brady has accompanied him and he has given his family a second explanation of everything, but they still seem to be dismissive. Nevertheless, Tommy appears content with the way things turned out.

In the film’s last scene, Jake Johnson’s character returns to Maddy’s to give her an explanation of how everything turned out and to start anew. The audience is not shown whether she replies when he knocks on her door.

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Was the Game All in Tommy’s Head?

self reliance movie ending explained

Throughout the film’s daylong length, a common question that many people had was whether Tommy was just dreaming up this whole game. Everyone around him seemed to think so, after all. No, that was very much a real thing, is the answer. Nonetheless, one could still read it that way if they wanted to see it as a massive hallucination.

It’s easy to see why so many people would draw that conclusion. Tommy acknowledged that occasionally his “brain makes stuff up.” Then there are the peculiar decisions he made when he was younger, such as insisting that everyone name him Michael Jackson or declaring he was heading to Japan to train as a samurai alongside his father. He can be somewhat odd.

But director Jake Johnson explained, saying, “The way [they’ve] ended this movie, it seems very likely that it was real,” in an interview with Decider. The filmmaker continued by explaining how, in response to audience comments, they altered the ending to make it less unclear and more explicit.


In Jake Johnson’s directorial debut, “Self Reliance,” Tommy Walcott is thrust into a deadly Dark Web game for 30 days, with hitmen targeting him. Along the way, he forms unexpected bonds and faces challenges. In the end, Tommy emerges as the game’s first survivor, winning $146,800. The film leaves the question of the game’s reality ambiguous, but the director suggests it was indeed real.

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