The Others: What Really Happened to Charles Stewart?

In Film, The Menu by Akeem K. Duncan.15 Comments

The Others is a classic horror film with an famous twist that never gets stale. Although The Others partly mirrors the groundbreaking twist of M. Night Shyamalan’s Sixth Sense, the film’s nuanced narrative and neoclassical pace has made it a standout not only in the horror genre, but in cinema overall. Alejandro Amenábar’s third large film, The Others won eight Goya awards–the first for an english language film–and won three Saturn awards. It was also nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay, which is said to be rare for a horror film.

Before we go any further, let us issue a server spoiler advisory for those who have been under a cinematic rock or those who are simply too yellow bellied and haven’t seen the film. If you are the former or the latter, DO NOT PASS GO.

Now that the children have left the room and we all know Nicole Kidman and her kids are ghosts, let us delve deeper into the plot–beyond the twist. While there is a wealth of symbology and easter eggs in The Others that fans of the movie have uncovered, there is one question that has gone unanswered for the most part:

What happened to Charles Stewart?

Yes, Charles Stewart played Christopher Eccleston. Husband to Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman). Father to Anne Stewart (Alakina Mann) and little, oft frightened Nicholas Stewart (James Bentley). Charles Stewart left for World War II and failed to come home even a year after the conflict was resolved… until nope. The catalyst for Grace Stewart’s psychotic break that resulted in her murdering her two children and offing herself Cobain style, the mystery of Charles’ disappearance seemed to resolved; but something wasn’t right. A distraught and fractured looking Charles stayed in bed for most of the time and when he did decide to leave the bed he also decided to leave the house–for good.

Unlike like the ominous and telling presence of the three servants, which included the incomparable Fionnula Flanagan, that was eventually  the husbands somberly sudden and brief appearance leaves you guessing. Even before examining his departure there is the initial enigma that surrounds how the hell he got there in the first place. According to standard haunting rules, a person’s ghost is usually confined to the place where said person perished. If that is the case, how and why did the husband’s ghost make the trek back home? Was it an undying desire to returning to his family that spurred his spirit to walk over a thousand miles? If so, why did he leave after finally reuniting with them?

Some point out that Kidman’s character hinted that the couple was having issues prior and their disconnect drove him to join the war as a means escaping their marital problems. Maybe upon returning Charles saw that nothing has changed and things have in fact gotten worse. This realization caused him to pack up his things and leave. Maybe Flanagan’s character whispered in his ear and revealed to him that he was dead. Or better yet, maybe she told what happened to the children “on that day“–a phrase that was also uttered by his daughter earlier in the film.

Another strong theory is that Charles wasn’t dead at all and was simply a grieving visitor who the current occupants allowed to stay the night. Gasp! This is by far is the most interesting theory. If this were true then in retrospect that would make Charles’ sudden appearance more significant than any other foreshadowing occurrence in the film. This gives this great film yet another poignant layer.

What do you think? Tell your theory as to why Charles Stewart left his family after searching for them for so long through the fog.

Comments

  1. He said “sometimes I bleed”. He was dead… period

    1. I think in the movie the OTHERS. that the husband is indeed ALIVE and after thousand of miles to find them he would not have left until he found out that the mother had murdered the children and herself. After being in war and seeing so much unwanted death he could not forgive his wife. But if he was alive how was he able to SEE THEM just as the OTHERS can’t see the dead.

    2. Yes he was . Or he would not have been able to see them as the alive people could not. Common sense tells us this on the movie.

      1. But wait, two of the “intruders” could see the children. Victor could see them and he was alive, the old lady could see them as well.

        1. Some people think that children are more likely to be able to see ghosts in part because they’re innocent so Victor could probably see the children. The old lady was a medium so she was more inclined to see the ghosts.

  2. Agree. The guy had to ho back to apologise. His going to the war and leaving his wife alone made her crazy and he feels responsible.
    Just went back to say: “I am sorry”. Then he left forever.

  3. The husband’s appearance is is bc the wife is dead. He’s already dead and was dead before the wife kills herself. The wife basically finds him as rather a conscious-deterant. She’s dead and tries to leave the house. It fogged up bc she can’t go far. The husband is dead and becomes a distraction for the wife. Ma Mills sums up the husband when she says he doesn’t know where he is.

    The main plot of the movie is getting the family to realize they are dead. They know their mother smothered them but that’s all bc they were already dead when she’s shot herself. Her mind had to open. When it did, she began to heal.

  4. I was just watching the movie again right now, and there’s a part where the three servants are together, and Mr Tuttle says “do you think the husband knows?” – which leads me to believe that he’s not really dead after all. If he were dead, wouldn’t he understand what the hell was going on in the house? He also never interacts with the servants at all, as if he doesn’t see them.

    He also confronts her with what “happened that day” – which leads me to believe that he knows she’s dead, and he’s communicating with her ghost and the ghosts of the children.

    So confusing!!

  5. Let me know if this makes sense to anyone:
    I read one post that said the husband was indeed dead, but had to return to the trenches where he had died.
    “I bleed sometimes” was a weird thing for him to say, yet Nicole’s character didn’t even flinch when he said it.
    I take it to mean that he bleeds from time to time as he relives the moment of his death. Perhaps because this
    movie has religious undertones, it means that he bleeds eternally in Purgatory. Even though it was in the face of war and it was demanded of him to kill his enemies, he did kill others. He wanted to return to the house to say one last good bye to his wife and children. I have to wonder if the other ghosts/spirits didn’t send the husband through the fog at that exact moment to stop Nicole’s character from pursuing her journey into town. She most likely would not be able to go much further than she did anyway since she was bound to the house and the grounds, but she did not know that. 
    If I recall correctly there was one scene where the husband was lying in bed with his children, one on each side with his arms outstretched to hug each of them. His daughter whispered in his ear what the mother had done and I believe that added more pain to his already haunted fate. In a scene shortly thereafter I recall him lying in bed, arms stretched out with no children present. He then turned and was lying on his side in a catatonic state as if he had just died again. Nicole’s character tried to talk to him, but got no response. Perhaps this was the final “nail in the coffin” so to speak when his soul left and he was pulled towards the place he belonged, no more wandering, he could not stay in the house because his final resting place was in the trenches. 

  6. Just watched this again tonight…beyond the husband return…I was con founded by Grace, in her proper Catholicism was still there among the other dead when she killed herself….a mortal sin..the others died by reasons beyond their hand…but Grace committed suicide…why is she not in hell while the others remain as ghosts?

  7. The husband is killed whilst on the front line and just comes home to say goodbye to his family before going back to haunt the place where he was killed. He regrets going to war more than he can say, but feels destined to haunt the trenches because for some reason the ‘law’ is that the ghosts must haunt the place where they died (like the three housekeepers who stayed there when “All the other servants left”). The husband partly realises they’re all dead and understands this ‘law’ of having to haunt the place of death, but can’t put it into words to explain to his wife.

    I also think the big thing is that he can’t relate to any kind of normal life anymore after the war, even though he loves them all. I think it’s that he can’t explain to them what he’s been though or live as though it never happened, that’s why he doesn’t explain why he feels so driven to leave and go back to where he feels he belongs (maybe his delusion isn’t that he’s alive and at home like the wife, but alive and at war, just nipping back for a home visit, even though he partly understands they’re all dead but is too confused to mention it) and leaves whilst his wife is asleep because he’s struggling to comprehend the situation himself.

    He obviously feels his ‘place’ is where he died, despite the extreme regret he has at going to war. I think the narrative is that in his mind he comes back to see his family after his death to say goodbye to them forever and then go and be at the trenches (where he feels he belongs, just as the wife and children feel they belong in that house).

  8. I think he is alive. He has come home to see his family but finds that it is true, they are all dead. I am sure he is dealing with the trauma of war, blames himself to some degree that she killed them. There are people that can see spirits or perhaps he just sensed them. There is no point of him staying with them all dead.

  9. Charles is dead. His abiding longing while at war was to return to his home is imbued in his spirit. This longing is so powerful that it even briefly pulls his spirit away from its appointment with God. His spirit is about to enter Heaven, having departed at last the purgatory of the battlefront where he died and where his own spirit remained until it was his time to enter Heaven. Before his spirit enters Heaven, it is drawn one last time towards his home and those whom he loves deeply and he is guided towards it. On the journey to them he encounters the spirit of Grace– just as her spirit is drawn to resolve the situation at her home that she doesn’t understand and can’t resolve on her own.

    At their meeting in the mist, the deeply distressed spirit of Charles believes his wife and children are still alive at home where the mortal Charles left them when he went off to war. When he finds the spirit of Grace in the mist, he’s confounded and not sure at all what he’s encountering. When he says, “sometimes I bleed,” he’s paraphrasing the idiom “my heart bleeds” meaning that he’s saying that he feels great sadness (https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/my+heart+bleeds+for+you).

    When he arrives at his home with Grace, he finds that the children are also dead and he understands that Grace has killed them and herself… as a result of his having left them alone. Not only is he shocked and deeply saddened at the deaths of his family, he is horrified at his own complicity in the situation, and the knowing that he will now be parted from them for eternity. Whether his spirit returns to the purgatory at the battlefront where he died or to is allowed at last into Heaven even after his detour home, he will be separated from them for eternity.

    The tenderness of Grace and Charles together just before his final departure from the house is their mutual gesture of forgiveness and reconciliation and acknowledgement that their love abides, no matter what has transpired.

    Grace runs to the gate and clings to it, but can’t go through it again. Metaphorically, the Gates of Heaven cannot open for her due to her mortal sin of committing murder and suicide and she is now doomed to the eternal purgatory of the place where she committed her mortal sins.

    (I’ve been mulling this over for nearly 20 years. This is my resolution to the questions the scenes pose)

  10. I believe Charles is alive. He is there in mourning after finally making it home from the front. I think the “I bleed sometimes.” Quote and him wanting answers to why his wife did what she did on that day is just him trying to reconcile what happened. He blames himself and grieves and after letting it sink in apologizes to his wife and then has to move on with his own. The little crumbs I find profound are the moments whilst holding his children and then the next he is by himself and the times when his wife is talking to him and he doesn’t answer. Leads me to think he is there to grieve and to find answers to his families demise and after learning what happened and why he moves on and tells her he has to go back to the front because she still doesn’t accept what she has done and has to figure that out for herself. The reason he sees them but It seems not all the time is because of his deep connection to them and the yearning inside to say goodbye and know the truth.

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