If you have already taken yourself to the cinema to watch The Favourite, one of the hottest films of awards season so far with ten Oscar nominations, chances are that you were scratching your head at the slightly bizarre ending. Here's just what happened at the end of the film and what it meant – but be warned! If you haven't watched it yet, we suggest popping to your nearest cinema before reading on in this article…
The film follows a power struggle between two women, Abigail (Emma Stone) and Sarah (Rachel Weisz) to be in favour of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). After the pair hatch several schemes to be rid of one another, Sarah finally makes a damning misstep when she threatens to share Queen Anne's intimate letters with the world unless she sends Abigail away. Although she is horrified by her threat and apologises, telling the Queen that she will always tell her the truth while Abigail isn't to be trusted, it is too little, too late. Sarah leaves court, but not before having one last face-off with a triumphant Abigail, who thinks she has "won" in their ongoing battle with one another.
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As time goes on, the Queen begins to desperately hope for a letter from her old friend. However, Abigail intercepts Sarah's letter of apology when it finally comes before falsely telling the Queen that Sarah has been embezzling money from the crown. Although Anne doesn't believe Abigail, in her misery having not heard from Sarah she sends her closest friend into exile, leaving Abigail as the Queen's favourite for good… until the final scene.
As the Queen lies in bed, a bored Abigail steps on one of the monarch's cherished rabbits, who signify each of the babies she has lost. Pressing down on it with her shoe, Abigail shows the true extent of her callous nature for the very first time – not realising that the Queen is watching her do it. The Queen demands that Abigail rub her legs, then grabs her hair and forces her down as she does it. The camera then focuses on Abigail's miserable face for an uncomfortably long time as she continuously massages the royal's legs, and an overlay of the Queen's own face and rabbits begins to overwhelm the screen.
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The ending of the film reveals how Abigail – despite being the one by the Queen's side – has ultimately lost. Her new position as a lady in entirely dependent on the Queen – and now that Anne has seen her for what she really is, she is being treated as badly as she was when she worked as a scullery maid. In fact, her situation hasn't really changed at all, and she's as trapped in her current situation as the rabbits are in their cages. As for the Queen, she has surrounded herself with rabbits as tragic reminders of her children, desperate to replace her losses with their affection, just as she did by replacing Sarah with Abigail.
So what about Sarah? An argument can be made that she was the one who ultimately won. Although she is exiled and cut off from her old friend, she is free. On the other hand, it is made clear throughout the film that Sarah's true love is for England and for the Queen, and being sent away from it all could have been her worst nightmare – meaning that all three of them are as unhappy as they could possibly be – and it is all their own making.