By Maureen Lee Lenker
December 12, 2020 at 10:00 AM EST
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Credit: Amazon Studios

I'm Your Woman reclaims the 1970s crime drama for its female protagonist — Jean (Rachel Brosnahan).

But what does flipping the typically male-dominated genre on its head mean for a sense of ending? That was the challenge facing director Julia Hart. Often, the protagonists of these films are anti-heroes, leaving their conclusions ambiguous, if not downright tragic. But that's the last thing Hart, who also co-wrote the film with husband Jordan Horowitz, wanted for Jean.

"I only wanted her to win out in the end because the message of the movie, ultimately, is that the only way to survive is to survive together," she tells EW. "We have to work together and build surprising, new communities and families in order to make it through the mess that we've all created."

The conclusion to the film, which dropped Friday on Amazon, reflects that. The formerly naive Jean comes into her own, driving her new family — including her baby and her two injured saviors-turned-compatriots Cal (Arinzé Kene) and his wife Teri (Marsha Stephanie Blake) — off into an uncertain future. But one they will face together.

One might expect Teri or Cal to perish as part of Jean's narrative, but Hart says she never considered giving the film a more somber ending. "It was very important to me that they all come through it together — this new family, this new community," she explains, before elaborating on the one tragedy she did include, the death of Teri's father Art (Frankie Faison). "I wanted there to be some loss. He dies saving the children, the children live because he sacrificed himself. There has to be some loss in order for all of us to understand the importance of protecting each other and getting through it."

Hart notes that the more upbeat ending was also a deliberate attempt to counteract the traditions of the genre, foregrounding the story of Jean coming into her power. "At the end of so many of those crime thrillers, [the heroes die] and the genre feels so marked by that, which is such a masculine thing," she reflects. "It was always very important to us that she figures out how to rescue herself, and they all get through it together."

That rescue comes via a potent metaphor in the story: a car. When we first meet Jean, she's fairly helpless, a bored housewife who can't even cook an egg. It makes sense then that when she has to hop in a getaway car, she'd take the backseat. But it only makes the moment Jean finally takes the wheel at the film's climax all the more potent.

"At the beginning of the film, Jean is in the backseat and Cal is in the front seat," Hart explains. "As their relationship develops, they become closer and they go through some difficult experiences together, so she's in the front seat with him. Then Teri drives the car first, and then Jean is driving all of them while they're in the backseat. That progression was very purposeful in terms of her growing understanding of race and gender and her place in the world."

When Jean does finally get behind the wheel, not only is she new behind the wheel, but she's forced to drive after being kidnapped and witnessing a murder. Hart reveals Brosnahan herself is not a big fan of driving, bringing a sense of discomfort and awkwardness to the scenes that only enhanced their resonance."All of the driving that Rachel did is practical, because we wanted to show a woman who's husband never let her drive the car," Hart says. "She's probably never really driven, so when she first takes Mike's car at the end, we had her bump up on the curb."

For Hart, Jean climbing behind the wheel is her favorite moment of the film because it's the most emblematic of the story she's telling. "That's what we have to do as women," she says. "We don't have to wait for permission, and we don't have to wait to be taught; she just freaking gets behind the wheel of the car and figures it out. That is the most female thing I can think of."

I'm Your Woman is now available on Amazon Prime Video.

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