Netflix's Earthquake Bird ending explained

Ian Sandwell
Photo credit: Netflix

From Digital Spy

Note: Contains spoilers for Earthquake Bird.

In among all the new Christmas offerings on Netflix, Earthquake Bird has arrived to provide a dark alternative to the festive joy.

Set in 1989 Tokyo, the psychological thriller stars Alicia Vikander as Lucy, an expat haunted by her past, who starts up a relationship with local photographer Teiji (Naoki Kobayashi). But their blossoming romance is threatened by the arrival of Lily (Riley Keough) who becomes close to the duo before mysteriously disappearing.

But what actually happened to Lily and did Lucy have anything to do with it? We're about to get to the bottom of the mystery, so beware, spoilers are ahead.

Photo credit: Netflix

The movie is set across two different timelines: Lucy being interviewed by the police and flashbacks to her time with Teiji and Lily.

Lucy was the last person to speak to Lily before her disappearance and due to the discovery of a body part, the police believe that Lily is dead. During the course of the flashbacks, it's revealed that Lucy was getting increasingly jealous of Teiji and Lily's closeness – and Teiji knows it.

"I wanted you to be [jealous]. You are my girlfriend, after all," he tells Lucy after a night the three of them spend in a club, and it all comes to a head when they visit Sado Island together.

Lucy gets ill during a hike and while she's resting, Lily and Teiji go off together to visit a gold mine. Lucy angrily tracks them down when they insist they left her a note that "must have blown away", and when they get back to Tokyo, Lucy sees Teiji taking photos of Lucy (something he does with his girlfriends).

Photo credit: Netflix

After this, it cuts back to the police interview and Lucy confesses to killing Lily: "I smashed her head in."

We then see the duo's final conversation where Lily tries to apologise to Lucy, but she's dismissive of her and doesn't even invite her into her house. Lucy eventually tries to go after Lily when she leaves, but never catches up to her. No murder here, it seems.

Cut back to the police station and it's revealed that the DNA of the body part didn't match Lily's, and Lucy retracts her statement and says she didn't kill her, but she wanted to. The police reassign the matter as a missing-person case and suggest that maybe Lily and Teiji just ran away together.

Determined to find the truth, Lucy breaks into Teiji's apartment and into his locked cabinet of photos. In a folder marked "Lucy – Selects", she sees several photos of herself and also several of Lily, including one where she appears to be dead – hinting that Teiji killed Lily.

Photo credit: Netflix

Lucy returns home to find Teiji waiting for her and he pleads for her to go away with him, but she refuses and says it's over between them. He attacks her, only for Lucy to hit him over the head with a glass vase, killing him.

But here's the thing though. Lucy is increasingly shown to be an unreliable narrator during the movie.

She imagines that Lily kissed her on the cheek during an earthquake, something that Lily doesn't remember in the morning. Later on in the movie, Lucy appears to completely fabricate a visit from a work colleague.

Even when she was 14, Lucy admits that she thought she was pregnant after sleeping with her friend's father, only for the baby to not be real.

Photo credit: Netflix

As the detective puts it to Lucy after it's revealed that it wasn't Lily's body part: "We all live in our own reality. Maybe, in some way, you thought you did kill Lily Bridges."

It's shown that Lucy feels as though she's been surrounded by death from a young age, where she was inadvertently responsible for the death of her brother. He was about to throw a rock at her when she jumped onto him, causing him to fall back and get his "head pierced by a long rusty nail on a plank of wood".


One of the members of her string quartet also breaks her neck falling down the stairs when Lucy goes to greet her. Oh, and that friend's dad we mentioned? He went off to sea in a canoe which toppled over and he washed up dead on shore.

(It's not a happy movie, tbh.)

Photo credit: Netflix

Since the death of her brother, Lucy has blamed herself for pretty much everything, so it's no surprise that she sees herself as responsible for Lily's disappearance.

Given that Earthquake Bird's story is largely told from her perspective, it means we can't fully trust what we see. Perhaps Teiji did kill Lily and then Lucy killed him when Teiji attacked her.

But equally, she could think she was responsible for her disappearance, creating the story that Teiji killed her – including Lucy imagining seeing the photos of Lily's body – and the actual explanation is that the two simply ran away together.

A final layer to the mystery comes in Earthquake Bird's final scene with Lucy talking to a Ms Kato, another member of the string quartet, about the death of Mrs Yamamoto and how Lucy feels responsible.

Photo credit: Netflix

Turns out, Ms Kato had just waxed the stairs a couple of days earlier, so she feels responsible for Mrs Yamamoto's death. She asks Lucy not to "mourn him", likely referring to Teiji, and doesn't want her blaming herself for not letting Lily in on that (potentially) fateful night.

So, in all likelihood, Lucy has just been incredibly unlucky in her life, and any unreliability in her story could be put down to a lifetime of trauma and misplaced guilt.

But you can never know for sure...

Earthquake Bird is now available to watch on Netflix.

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