WARNING: Spoilers for Unicorn Store ahead!
Netflix's Unicorn Store has an ending that is both fittingly grounded and grandly fantastical - what does it mean? Brie Larson's directorial debut, finally getting a release after premiering at TIFF 2017, tells the story of child-minded art student Kit attempting to grow up by getting a temp job at a marketing firm and drinking coffee. Her heart isn't in it, however, and she soon becomes distracted from that goal when she gets an invite to "The Store" where The Salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) offers her childhood dream of a unicorn.
The movie sees Kit following The Salesman's various tests for unicorn ownership - building a place for it to live, gaining financial security and creating a loving environment for the magical creature to thrive in - that sees her flourish at work, reconnect with her parents and find love in hardware store clerk Virgil. After her big presentation (with added glitter) falls flat, Kit begins to doubt the unicorn, but eventually comes face-to-face with Steve - only to let it go to another woman. Unicorn Store ends with Kit and Virgil walking away from The Store hand-in-hand as a new customer enters.
Related: Read Our Unicorn Store Review
From its off-kilter presentation of real-life (Kit's temp job initially involves photocopying magazines) to the vibrant wardrobe (Larson has a new outfit in pretty much every scene, each more vibrant and stylish than the last), it's clear very early on that Unicorn Store is quirky even by American indie standards. But in amongst all that is a core story about embracing childhood ideas when moving on from them into adult. Here's what Unicorn Store's ending really means.
What Was The Store & Who Is The Salesman?
The practicalities of The Store aren't even addressed in Unicorn Store, and for good reason. Kit gets multiple invites - one left under her doormat and multiple to her desk at work - that lead her to an unassuming entranceway hiding an elevator to an expansive, extravagant room of unicorn celebration overseen by The Salesman. There's giant TVs displaying multiple images of unicorns, cleaning areas and a whole lot of hay.
Kit revisits The Store several times during the movie to reflect on her life changes and get new tasks - in silver folders - from The Salesman, but when she brings Virgil to explain her rather crazed belief of getting a unicorn, it's deserted and the possibility all of this is either a con or a figment of her imagination, a way for her to avoid coping with the real world, becomes all too present. But, against all rational view, she returns to find The Salesman there with her prize.
Abstract as it may be, The Store is real enough in the world of Unicorn Store. What matters, though, is what it represents. It's a place where The Salesman - surely intended as some magical being but, again, abstraction - helps people lost in the intensity of modern adult life and offers them a bridge between their childhood past to their more self-sustaining future. That can be a unicorn as in Kit's case, but the core goes more personal than that. While The Salesman makes a point that The Store isn't all about Kit, the current iteration is tailored for her - just as it changes (with a new sign) for new customer Sam at the end.
Was The Unicorn Real?
At the end of Unicorn Store, Kit gets her unicorn. Bathed in rainbow light, he's everything she'd always imagined (except a little bigger). But, while this is the end of her prime mission, she ultimately chooses to let it go to the "other woman" who wants it (and most certainly doesn't exist).
Sure, like The Store, the unicorn is real. It was physically there, Kit held it, Virgil saw it, there's no avoiding that. But it's real in the world of Unicorn Store similar to how Kit points out that rainbows - as physical objects not tricks of light - are. It's a collection of emotions, representing everything about Kit's childhood view that she's been holding on to in her resistance to becoming an adult. Her letting it go isn't about not having the means to look after what is essentially a horse, it's Kit embracing the existence of her whimsy while accepting that there are other, more important things in life.
What Does Unicorn Store's Ending Really Mean?
The entire story of Unicorn Store is about a person rooted in happy juvenility using that to become an adult. There's a "them and us" view to being a grown-up at that start of the movie leading to a resistant-then-aggressive embracing of its facets: suits, coffee, working late. The moment there's the prospect of the unicorn in the picture, however, Kit's drive to do things she would have considered beyond her maturity - find a boyfriend, get a big job opportunity, heal her relationship with her parents, even notice that her artwork has been hung up - comes out naturally. At the end of Unicorn Store, the choice with the unicorn is easy: she's grown beyond the need for it and constructed her own life.
Unicorn Store's ending is a pretty overt representation of growing up, of how the idea of adulthood is something child viewpoint resists yet ultimately powers when you're not realizing. Beyond that, though, with Kit' excitement and vibrant clothes in contrast to a grey world, and the fact she doesn't lose any part of herself in the maturing, it's also Larson saying how growing up needn't mean a loss of what makes being a kid so joyous. You don't need a unicorn to see the fun in the world.