'Not Okay' Ending: Director Shares There Was an Alternative Fate for Danni

Lies, selfishness, surviving, hope, trauma and honesty are all at the center of Hulu's latest dark-comedy movie, Not Okay, and the film also shines a glaring light on the power of social media and total self-destruction.

Not Okay, directed and created by Quinn Shephard follows the story of Danni Sanders (played by Zoey Deutch) a 20-something millennial who, instead of staying true to herself, pretends to go to Paris in a bid to impress office hot boy, Colin (Dylan O'Brien).

Danni, who is a skilled photo editor for fictional New York magazine, Depravity, starts off by photoshopping images of herself in Paris, living, what appears to be, her best life.

However, instead of facing reality, when Paris is struck by deadly terrorist attacks and people mistake her as a survivor, Danni decides to roll with the lies, fabricating a whole story about her trauma.

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Zoey Deutch as Danni in "Not Okay." Hulu/Disney+

She even takes it so far as to attend a trauma counseling session, where she meets school-shooting survivor Rowan (Mia Isaac).

Instead of telling Rowan the truth, Danni leeches off her trauma, turning it into her own. Almost simultaneously, audiences oddly begin to see Danni become a little more of a better person. Through her friendship with Rowan, it is almost like a glimpse of what her life could be like, who she could be, if she chose to work on herself and become, quite frankly, a better person.

Speaking to Newsweek about Danni's journey, creator and director Quinn Shephard said: "I think Danny doesn't have a traditional protagonist arc, which was very intentional, in that she starts out kind of bad, she becomes much worse. And I think there's a lot of heart to that because as she gets closer to Rowan, we both see her have the seeds of 'oh, she could maybe be a better person through this friendship' and also in that friendship, she is outwardly leeching off of and exploiting Rowan.

"So it's that mixture of watching it and both like rooting for her to grow and also recognizing in my mind, at least, the film is attempting to comment on the fact that she shouldn't be trying to grow through Rowan, she needs to try to grow through herself and doing that is inherently exploitation of Rowan."

Just when audiences are starting to (sort of) like Danni, as expected, the truth quickly catches up with her and she is exposed by her colleague. Danni decides to publish the truth in an article for Depravity, without speaking with Rowan first.

As a result of her lies, not only did Danni lose her job and the respect of others, but she also lost the one true friend she had in Rowan.

At the end of Not Okay, Danni plucks up the courage to face Rowan, who is performing spoken word at an open talent show. She has typed a huge apology on her phone, but it is unknown if she is going to read it to Rowan or let Rowan read it for herself.

Danni does not even get that far, as Rowan delivers a beautifully raw poem about her trauma and her relationship with Danni.

She ends her performance by powerfully stating "I hope you realize by doing this, you've only given me more to say. So maybe, one day, I'll forgive you but we will never be okay."

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Mia Isaac as Rowan in Not Okay on Hulu Hulu

Shephard explained how by the end of the film, Rowan is the main character and she is the one who gets the happy ending.

"I love using what I like to call a secret protagonist [...], a character that comes in in an unexpected way seems like they're going to be a supporting character and purely like a foil for the lead and then you really let that evolve in the film," Shephard said.

"We tried a lot of different versions of the ending in different test screenings and something that immediately clicked for me about the way we've chosen to end the film and what people's reaction to it was, is that in the end, we really understand that Rowan is the hero and it's Rowan, who's gone on a protagonist's journey in the story, and it is about hearing her voice and her words and feeling a hope that she's going to be okay, after everything that Danni has done to her."

Shephard continued: "That gives us a version of a happy ending but it's not a happy ending for Danni, I don't think it's a hopeless ending though. I think with Danni you get that very first glimmer that she might grow, and then we're out because she's no longer the protagonist. At that moment, she realizes she has to stop centering herself in the story. She's not always the main character."

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Zoey Deutch as Danni in "Not Okay" on Hulu. Hulu

In the end, Danni walks out of the theater, unable to face Rowan, which Shephard believes is the first right thing she has done in the entire movie.

Shephard said: "I think my intention with the film at the end is for there to not be redemption, but for there to be hope. In my mind, in her final moments, she finally makes one right choice in the entire movie, she makes one good decision but in my mind, it's what she does at the very end.

"I definitely think there's hope for Danni, I think to imagine that people can't ever grow, change or reflect is crazy, and while I don't think you should just let people off the hook for behavior like this, I also just don't think we should define people for the rest of their lives by their worst decisions.

"So my hope is if you see yourself in Danni when you watch this movie, you'll feel like, 'if I listen, and I am quiet for a second and reflect on what I've done, maybe I can grow.'"

The Alternative Ending

Although Danni did not have the typical happy ending, Shephard believes it is one filled with hope.

However, Shephard did have alternative endings in mind.

She shared: "We shot two alternate endings, neither of which are in the film, " she said. "I will say they were endings that were not happy, that actually just saw Danni face much more brutal consequences for her actions and, while on paper, it felt like those endings would provoke the audience to question 'What do we do with somebody like Danni as a society?', in execution in the cut of the film, they felt as if the film was saying there can be no hope or redemption if you've made mistakes like this.

"It didn't feel like the right statement because that isn't what we were trying to say and so ultimately cutting it landed the statement we wanted to make a lot harder."

Shephard continued: "In the end...I didn't want to give her character a redemption arc because I think it would be letting her off the hook far too easily for her actions and I think satire is ultimately more about leaving a statement than just a traditional protagonist arc.

"But the last act of the film is really about talking about what do we do as a society with people like Danni, and if we are Danni, what can we do? And I think we do end in a hopeful place, but it's certainly not a happy ending if that makes sense."

Not Okay is streaming on Hulu now.