The Japanese drama Ride or Die tells the story of Rei and Nanae – a pair of friends who scheme to kill Nanae’s abusive husband – but does so in an unusual way that can make it initially unclear why the characters act the way they do. The movie also takes place out of order, jumping back and forth in time throughout the two women’s relationship with each other. Ride or Die ends with both women in police custody, facing a seemingly dire fate, but it also offers an optimistic and heartfelt resolution to its central relationship.
At first glance, Ride or Die‘s plot suggests a classic crime thriller. Nanae reconnects with her old friend Rei and plays on Rei’s romantic feelings for her to convince her to kill her abusive husband. Rei is spotted on camera, and she and Nanae go on the run from the law. But there’s little in the way of conventional devices to build suspense, such as car chases or scenes of the cops closing in. Instead, Ride or Die is ultimately a character drama, exploring the tempestuous and hard-to-define relationship between the two women and the question of how to live after such a violent act.
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Rei and Nanae are initially celebratory after the murder, including a sunlit cruise down the road getting fast food and singing along to their favorite songs like YUI’s “CHE.R.RY.” However, once it becomes clear that there is no chance they will get away with the crime their relationship starts to fray, revealing the faults that always underlay it. The core problem is the impasse between Rei, an out lesbian who is openly in love with the other woman, and Nanae, who openly appeals to Rei’s desire but sees their relationship as a more transactional one. Both lament being unable to determine whether they are friends, lovers, or something in between. The other question that haunts Ride or Die is whether the protagonists will live or die. Rei and Nanae often discuss committing suicide, at first jokingly and then with increasing seriousness. The more their relationship breaks down, the more possible it becomes that one or both will see death as a more attractive end to their story than life in prison.
Why Rei and Nanae Run Away Again
Things seem to be coming to a close in the Netflix drama as Rei and Nanae are in hiding with Rei’s brother. They come up with a plan to turn themselves in to the police, resolved to face their fate. However, the two ultimately decide to run away again, looking to have at least one more day together. To do so, they jump out of the windows in the house, which was teased earlier as part of their suicidal ideation. However, it turns out that the windows are only a story up, and Rei and Nanae escape unharmed.
The reason why the two women had to run away again was to resolve the tension in their relationship and come to some sort of understanding about what they meant to each other. Rei and Nanae talk out their conflicting desires, their mixed feelings about what they have done and what they should do next, and ultimately make love in a scene reminiscent of The Handmaiden or Blue Is the Warmest Color. Afterward, Nanae wraps her hands around Rei’s throat and seemingly offers to kill her, another indication of the close connection between sex and death in the minds of these two characters. But Nanae doesn’t go through with it, and the two wake up the next morning in a kind of romantic idyll.
The final night away is crucial for Rei and Nanae to resolve the uncertainty between them, both physically and emotionally. Rei says that having sex with the woman she loves has fulfilled her dreams, but there is more than a physical aspect to their connection. After their last night on the lam, Rei and Nanae have come to understand both their feelings for each other and their inevitable differences. In voice-over narration, Rei repeats the earlier lines about being neither friends nor lovers but says it with a kind of acceptance that recognizes the undefinable nature of their relationship is what made it meaningful enough to kill over.
Ride Or Die’s Flashbacks Explained
Ride or Die skips back and forth in time. The movie begins with Rei seducing and killing Nanae’s husband. From there, Ride or Die has two temporal strands – one moving forward and one moving backward. Thus, the scenes of Rei and Nanae’s final night together are interspersed with the final flashbacks, portraying how they first met in a high school art class. While not as challenging a structure as a movie like Memento, Ride or Die‘s flashbacks still require some untangling.
The flashbacks initially simply clarify why the crime took place, but as they continue they help to develop characters. During their first meeting, Rei and Nanae have to sketch each other. Nanae is hesitant to open up, sad about some unknown trouble, but Rei convinces her to take off their glasses and smile. This scene both depicts the beginning of Rei’s love for Nanae and also sets the dynamic that defines their relationship until the end: Rei pushing for Nanae to open up to her, and being stymied by the other girl’s personal problems. The school setting initially conjures up associations with gentler Japanese shoujo stories, but even this part of the girls’ lives has plenty of darkness
A flashback that occurs earlier in the film, but later in its chronology, sees Nanae shoplifting from a shoe store. Rei rescues her by giving money to the store employees that chase her down. Rei also offers to continue to pay for her schooling in exchange for sex, but Nanae refuses. This also reflects their larger relationship, with Nanae relying on Rei to enable her but ultimately reluctant to begin the kind of physical relationship that Rei wants. It is only in the movie’s final scene that this dynamic changes.
Why Rei Calls The Police
After her night with Nanae, Rei finally calls the cops from a payphone. The police arrive to take both women into custody. This decision might seem to contradict Rei and Nanae’s actions throughout the movie to avoid arrest and accountability for their actions and is a distinct change from similar movies like the Wachowskis’ Bound. Nanae evidently feels as much, yelling at Rei in disbelief. But turning herself in makes sense for Rei, having finally turned the page in her decade-long relationship with Nanae and allowing her to further protect her love.
Having contacted the police herself, Rei is able to narrate her crime to them in the way she sees fit. As suggested earlier in the movie, this will allow her to claim that she acted on her own, and kidnapped Nanae rather than being her accomplice. In doing so, she can protect Nanae from prosecution in a way that she couldn’t if she had killed herself. This sacrifice from Rei involves taking on the role that she mentions in the shower – that of the psychotic lesbian jealous of her crush’s husband, a familiar stereotype from movies like Basic Instinct. There are people who could potentially dispute Rei’s account, such as her brother or the cab driver she seduces, but they have no real reason to do so. It’s reasonable to assume that, after the movie ends, Rei goes to jail but is able to keep Nanae from facing the same fate.
Thematically, Rei turning herself in reflects the end of her journey. Having finally attained the kind of connection she wanted with Nanae, she is willing to take responsibility for her actions. Rei has made her own choices, abandoning a loving girlfriend and a stable life to commit a crime out of love and lust. Nanae’s life has always been more hemmed in, restricted first by her poverty and then by her controlling husband. Through her actions, Rei gives Nanae freedom for the first time in her life.
The Real Meaning of Ride or Die’s Ending
The final moments of Ride or Die reflect that the Netflix movie’s main interest is in the relationship between Rei and Nanae, not the crime they commit. The climax of the film is not an action set-piece but the physically and emotionally intimate night between Rei and Nanae by the seaside. Rei’s quest has never been to escape capture, but rather to finally break through the impasse that has characterized her and Nanae’s relationship, and this is what she is finally able to do. Nanae has also overcome her learned helplessness that required her to depend on other people, whether it be Rei or her husband, and can begin a free life.
Despite Rei facing a long prison sentence and Nanae being distraught, the conclusion of Ride or Die ultimately represents a happy ending for the two protagonists. While the idea of suicide and death has been a constant presence, both women end the movie alive. Having experienced a moment of happiness in her love’s arms, Rei chooses life and finds a way to protect Nanae and give her the freedom she never had before. All of the elements of Ride or Die‘s final scenes, from the flashback to Rei and Nanae’s first meetings to the lengthy sex scene, contribute to Rei’s decision. In this way, Ride or Die ultimately provides a cathartic and somewhat hopeful ending, despite how bleak it may initially seem.
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