A Journey’s Ending Is A Heart-Wrenching Reminder Of Life’s Unfairness

By Lori Meek
Published: April 12, 2024 (Last updated: last month)
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A Journey Ending Explained
A Journey | Image via Netflix

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS

The ending of A Journey is unexpectedly devastating and speaks about the true frailty of human life.

It always seemed clear that the Netflix film would build to a tear-jerking conclusion, but I was nonetheless taken aback by its poignancy. There’s a desperate feeling to the whole endeavor of Bryan and Kristoff trying to convince Shane to reconsider treatment for her cancer during their trip to Tasmania, but the late reversal is a real saddening shock.

Why Did Shane Refuse Treatment?

Having already lived through cancer once, Shane refuses treatment when she gets the devastating news that the terrible illness has returned. Instead, she makes up a “magic list” of things she wants to do. Kristoff, aka “Tupe”, decided to help by paying for himself, Shane, and her husband Bryan to travel to Tasmania and tick as many items off Shane’s bucket list as possible, including helping her reconnect with her estranged father, Mr. T.

Secretly, the men are hoping Shane will change her mind about the treatment after fulfilling everything on her list.

After their experience seeing the little penguins, Shane, Bryan, Kristoff, and Mr. T check into a nearby motel. Mr. T accidentally slips up and tells Shane that Bryan’s been asking about cancer specialists. Furious, Shane confronts her husband, who’s unapologetic about wanting her to live. Sadly, her cancer has metastasized to other organs and she’s unlikely to survive even with treatment. That’s why she didn’t want to get the chemo.

Shane’s decision, and then her further decision to subsequently hide her justification, speaks to that essential question of how we’d live the remainder of our lives if we knew the clock was ticking down to zero. Shane thinks living large temporarily is better than suffering indefinitely. It’s easy to see Bryan’s point of view, though; he wants his wife to survive. It’s hard for someone to accept the death of a loved one, even if they have already resigned themselves to it.

Shane and Bryan Renew Their Vows

A Journey Ending Explained

A Journey | Image via Netflix

The following day, Mr. T. leads Shane to a nearby church, where Bryan and his best man, Tupe, are already waiting. Mr. T apologizes for not being around to walk her down the aisle at the first wedding but is grateful he can do it now. Through tears of joy, Bryan and Shane exchange rings and reassure each other of their love, even after they’ve fought. 

On the last day of their trip, the trio go to the beach. Shane thanks Bryan and Tupe for bringing her to Australia and making her happy. She then reveals that she’s decided to get treatment for the cancer and hopefully get to experience Australia the following year. It’s safe to say, Bryan and Tupe are overjoyed to hear this. 

Here, I believed A Journey was building towards a happy ending. I was wrong.

Bryan’s Unexpected Demise

A Journey Ending Explained

A Journey | Image via Netflix

Shane and Bryan spend their first night back home in great spirits. But in the morning, Bryan collapses unexpectedly. Shane calls an ambulance, and he’s rushed to the hospital, but the doctors can’t do anything to save him. A devastated Shane has to listen to the doctor telling Tupe her beloved husband died from an aneurysm. 

At Bryan’s funeral, Shane notes how all the arrangements were the ones she had planned for herself and how she never expected to lose Bryan. Shane and Tupe go back to her home and she’s holding Bryan’s ashes in the same urn she’d picked out after first receiving her diagnosis. 

From beyond the grave, Bryan had one last surprise for Shane. He arranged for her favorite singer, Ogie, to come and give her a private performance. 

The way A Journey plays with expectations here is devastating. The idea of all the preparations Shane made for her death having to suddenly be applied to her husband’s has a real poignancy, especially given that Shane had already reversed her own decision to accept death.

Tupe Is Left Alone

A Journey Ending Explained

A Journey | Image via Netflix

Tupe decided to take Bryan’s advice, so he told his agent he’d like to get out of his comfort zone. He pitches the idea of a movie about Bryan and Shane’s love story. 

Shane still keeps her promise to her husband and proceeds with the cancer treatments. Tupe and her mother stay by her side through the ordeal. Unfortunately, Shane isn’t responding well to the chemo. When Tupe visits to share his recent Film Festival win with her, Shane confesses that she misses her husband too much to fight the cancer off. 

A while after Shane’s passing, Tupe visits the viewpoint in Tasmania alone and leaves the two penguin toys, Bryan’s necklace, and the film festival award he got for the movie about them. 

The film ends with Tupe inviting a woman who recognized him from the movie he made about Bryan and Shane’s love story out for a coffee. 


You can also check out my thoughts on the film overall in my review of A Journey. You can also read more about Penguin, Tasmania, where the movie was filmed. And if you’re interested, here are 5 romantic Filipino movies like A Journey you should also check out.

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