The big question after watching Horse Girl is of course, did it all happen in her head, is she mentally ill or was it all real?
Sarah is a quirky woman who works at the hobby store, loves a supernatural crime series and her horse Willow. Although she is socially awkward she cares for her friend who fell off a horse and suffers from brain damage. One day when she meets a man who shares the same name with her favorite character of her favorite tv series, things are looking up, but then she gets strange dreams and she falls in and out of reality and time itself. Is there something wrong with her, or does it have something to do with her grandmother?
Time gets jumbled up
We don’t get a straight up answer at the end, but there are some hints that may prove Sarah is mentally unstable but that doesn’t mean her theories are wrong.
First of all when you start watching this film about the quirky but lovable and socially awkward Sarah, you think you are watching a normal film, with a straight up timeline, with a normal chronological order. But when the film proceeds, some weird stuff starts happening.
For example she hears her roommate and her boyfriend having an argument in the middle of the night. But the next morning she finds out they weren’t actually at home. So whom did she hear? Later on in the film when she is hospitalized she wakes up in a bed with a woman. The exact same woman of her dreams, who presumably also has been abducted and claims she’s from 1995. It is then that the conversation Sarah had heard, takes place. The first time she heard this conversation in the past, it actually took place in the future. And it is not the first time. She can hear through the phone what Joan is going to say.
Time gets really scrambled up in this film. She thinks her car is stolen but probably she got out herself, or was taken out, and just left it at the traffic lights. She presumably sleepwalks and ends up in the street, with the public phone in her hand, while only two minutes have past, but in fact she was almost gone for 25 minutes, for she called herself from the phone booth 23 minutes earlier. She has strange bruises on her body and gets nosebleeds. And she has the strangest dreams. But the clawlike scratches on the wall, resembling the claw hands of the alien, are really there.
Is she a clone of her grandmother or abducted by aliens?
Sarah has a few theories of her own, she is either a clone of her grandmother’s for she looks exactly like her, or she has been abducted by aliens who put her back in the wrong time or it could be the government or demons.
There are some scenes that make it even more confusing. After the nice date (which took a horrible turn) with Darren who couldn’t have thought all of these theories were taken so seriously by Sarah, she is cleansing the room, takes a shower, but at the same time we see her car pulling up in front of the hobby store while Sarah steps naked out of the shower directly into the hobby store through the back entrance. It’s a scene that doesn’t make sense, not to us, nor to Sarah herself. It is the point were she starts doubting herself and the audience thinks she’s mentally unstable as well. All the more because her mother killed herself and was mentally ill. Also her grandmother was institutionalized for saying that she was from the future. But being mentally unstable doesn’t mean aliens aren’t real or that the abductions didn’t take place.
What’s going on in the hospital?
Because when she first talks with Ethan in the hospital, he says she has been there before, while she’s there for the first time. That night she watches herself walking out of the hospital and some weird things happen in a very surreal way. Now the alien interference and her own unstable mind get really jumbled up. But the next day, she thinks she’s been there for only one night, but he says she was there for three days. When she then wakes up next to the girl from her dreams (who’s from 1995) she gets confirmation she might be right.
So is this the first time she’s in the hospital (in the film’s chronological order: the second session with Ethan)? And was the second time after her break down in the store (in the film’s chronological order: the first session with Ethan)? Because it is shown in sequence, the film’s chronological order, doesn’t have to mean it takes place in chronological order.
The bootstrap paradox
The only thing she has to do is continue the cycle, to follow this through to finally make some sense out of it and find out the truth. Because mentally unstable or not, we all want to know the truth, what is really going on, to get a grip on reality. She dresses up in her grandmothers dress, does her hair just like her grandmother’s in the photo and takes Willow to the woods and waits to be taken by aliens. Probably to be taken to the past to become her grandmother, or making a few other time stops along the way.
But…While she walks with Willow through the street Joan sees the horse, making it real and not just playing out in Sarah’s head. Because Joan sees this happening in the past, while she is talking to Sarah, while the future Sarah is walking by with Willow. At that moment, here are two Sarah’s at the same time and place. This outsiders perspective is an important clue.
If that is so, we are dealing with some pretty fun time paradoxes. What makes it really fun is that this could be the exact opposite of the Grandfather paradox, that states you can’t go back in time to kill your grandfather, because then you won’t be born to go back in time to kill your grandfather. The conclusion is that you therefore can’t kill your grandfather because it is not possible.
But in this particular case Sarah is her grandmother. She goes back in time to become her own grandmother, giving birth to her own mother, who eventually gives birth to her. This couldn’t actually happen. You got to love a good paradox.
Unless… we are dealing with the Bootstrap paradox. This paradox states that an object or in this case a person goes back in time, so it can be produced/exist in the past so it can exist/be in the future to be taken back to be made etcetera. Sarah lets herself be put back in the past by the aliens so she can give birth to her mother so she can be born and so she can travel back to the past. It’s an endless loop with no beginning point. A theory the series Dark embraced as well.
We don’t get shown when exactly every scene takes place, there are too many gaps to figure out the precise timeline. But, if you want the dull theory it can also take place inside Sarah’s head. But what is the fun in that?