The Professor Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Richard (Johnny Depp) is a university professor of English literature. He is tormented by back pain, he goes to the doctor for an examination and receives a terrible diagnosis: he has lung cancer in the terminal stage. If treatment is started immediately, then Richard can last a year, with special luck – a year and a half. If not treated, the doctor gives Richard a maximum of six months.

Richard does not want to spend the rest of his time lying in a hospital bed, so he categorically refuses treatment and returns to teaching. He wants to tell his wife Veronica (Rosemary DeWitt) and daughter Olivia (Odessa Young) about the diagnosis, but they are not up to Richard: Veronica does not love her husband and cheats on him with the head of the university Henry (Ron Livingston), Olivia declares that she is a lesbian and meets a complete misunderstanding on the part of his mother, in general, Richard decides not to tell them anything.

Teaching literature, as he always did, is completely uninteresting to Richard, so he kicks out two-thirds of his class, and with the remaining third he does it completely outside the box: he takes them to a bar and to nature, while making students liberate. Along the way, he shares his philosophy with them, which, of course, should explain something important to Richard himself.

About the diagnosis, Richard informs his close friend Peter (Danny Huston), who works at the same university. Peter takes Richard’s problems to heart and tries to comfort him in some way.


There are a lot of films about how a person finds out that he has nothing left to live. And they are different genres. There are heavy dramas, and, oddly enough, there are tragicomedies, despite the fact that, it would seem, there is certainly nothing funny in this topic. From this series, you can remember the wonderful German film “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, as well as the beautiful old Canadian film with Jack Lemmon “Honoring”.

The original title of the picture, which United Statesn distributors gave the stupid name “Breaking Bad”, for some reason causing completely unnecessary allusions to the series “Breaking Bad”, sounded like “Richard Says Goodbye” (“Richard Says Goodbye”), but then was changed to simple “The Professor” (“Teacher”). (Well, we are silent about the fact that the United Statesn name is just completely illiterate.)

The presence of Johnny Depp in the lead role suggests that something like a glamorous Hollywood awaits us, but Johnny Depp is good, that in addition to all the cutesy captains, he often plays in independent projects – with varying degrees of success, but nonetheless.

As far as I read, the script was written specifically for Johnny Depp, whose consent was received by the director and screenwriter of the film, Wayne Roberts, in advance. And here everything is based on Depp, and Depp, in my opinion, is very good here.

The United Statesn rental title of the film does not correspond to the plot at all. Because Richard here, in general, does not indulge in all serious. Well, yes, he drinks, uses drugs and cuts the truth in the eyes of people, but, firstly, many people do this without any terrible diagnoses, and, secondly, we don’t know what Richard was before the discovery of the disease – we it’s just not shown.

The film is a tragicomedy. Even though it is rather sad, there are many funny moments. In the episode of the dispersal of students in his class, Richard was somewhat reminiscent of Dr. House in the famous series, where he recruited new doctors for himself.

Depp here dispenses with the usual facial expressions and gestures, plays as if on halftones and you sympathize with his character. Moreover, in real life, Johnny Depp himself, as he repeatedly admitted in interviews, abuses alcohol and drugs, suffers from depression and feels unhappy. Apparently, that’s why Richard and his gradual lowering look so authentic.

The film shows how Richard is trying to somehow improve relations within the family, but he can not do it. He acts as a moderator between his wife and daughter, who are constantly in conflict with each other, he tries to get closer to his wife, who simply does not love him, nothing comes of it and he is tormented by it.

Richard’s relationship with his friend Peter, played by Danny Huston, is very touching. Peter himself also has problems with family life: his wife Barbara (Linda Emond) is a domineering woman with a bad temper, who constantly puts pressure on Peter. And then a close friend has such a diagnosis – Peter from this comes to despair.

In the picture, with rare exceptions, intonations are quite accurately maintained. No one presses a tear from the viewer on purpose, the manner of staging is neat and verified. And, as I said, despite the completely unfun subject, there are a lot of funny moments in the film. There was only one episode there, which surprised me a lot and seemed obviously superfluous, but we will not discuss it in order to avoid spoilers.

I liked this movie, I watched it with pleasure. Not glamorous, but quite lively and some very vital Depp, excellent Danny Huston, a good production, more like an independent movie than a Hollywood movie. But it is clear that not everyone will like this film, the topic is too specific. But after that, I once again began to respect Depp – this actor is really looking for interesting projects.


The Professor movie meaning

Director: Wayne Roberts Cast: Danny Huston, Johnny Depp, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ron Livingston, Odessa Young, Zoey Deutch, Devon Terrell, Linda Emond, Matreya Scarrwiner, Siobhan Fallon

Tragicomedy, USA, 2018, 90 min.

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