Self Reliance: Is The Game Real?

By Louie Fecou
Published: January 16, 2024 (Last updated: 5 weeks ago)
Self Reliance: Is The Game Real?
Self Reliance | Image via Hulu


Hulu’s comedy thriller Self Reliance has an interesting premise, as we find protagonist Tommy agreeing to take part in a dark web reality game show that challenges him to survive a month without being murdered by a collection of costumed assassins. This game is a commentary on relationships and human connection through Tommy’s eyes, and while there are suggestions that it was all in his head, the film’s ending clarifies that the game was indeed real, not imagined.

Is the game real in Self Reliance?

Yes, the game in Self Reliance is real, despite what a lot of people around Tommy assume. Admittedly it would be a first response to imagine that Tommy was in some way imagining it all, but the ending isn’t especially ambiguous.

Does Tommy win the game?

Yes, by the third act, Tommy is acknowledged as being the first winner of the game. Tommy wins shortly after being offered a way out to safety by Andy Samberg. He decides to risk his safety to continue with the game rather than go back home without the prize money. Although he is to be paid that prize money in installments, we can see that the money has indeed begun to make a change in his life.

At the end of the film, we see Tommy sharing an apartment with Walter, and making his way back to Maddy’s house to reconnect with her after the events in the film.

What is the meaning behind Self Reliance?

At its most fundamental Self Reliance is about the importance of relationships and human connection.

Of course, this kind of film may mean different things to different people, and that’s the way it should be as there can not be one discernible meaning for art in any form. There have been a few theories about the movie’s meaning, and perhaps you have your own that you would share with us in the comments, but what many people take from the screenplay is the deep-rooted need for people to be able to connect and how important that can be in life.

It is also easy to see the film in an allegorical way and to explore the idea that the whole movie may be a commentary on the aftereffects of a global lockdown that saw people separated from each other due to the pandemic. Many people still suffer from losses due to the lockdown, and the film may be commenting on the nature of the measures that were put in place to keep people apart, and how we coped when the lockdown ended.

However, there could be many ways to interpret the film, and at the end of the day, it may just be a film about a normal guy trying to survive being murdered so he can win a lot of money.

What does Jake Johnson, writer and director, say about the film’s meaning?

In an interview with Decider, Johnson would say that the ambiguity of the ending is understandable and he is happy that people have different interpretations of the narrative. He tells Decider:

“The ending of this movie really changes the viewing experience in a way that I didn’t expect. It’s probably just my lack of experience, but for me—and I know this seems naive—but it’s choose your own adventure. The ending doesn’t matter, the journey is what matters.”

Sounds good to us.

RELATED: Where was Self Reliance filmed?

Hulu, Movie News, Movies, News, Streaming Service