Doll House Plot Synopsis
The story begins with a glimmer of the future, with a young woman arriving at a nursing home to find her father the worse for wear. He’s lost his memory and doesn’t remember who she is. This man is Rustin, and we dive back in time to see him at the height of his infamy.
Performing in a rock band, Rustin works hard and plays hard in equal measure, with a steady cocktail of alcohol and drugs to keep him going. When his friend Diego takes a turn for the worst, Rustin decides to make amends for the ills he’s caused, and jets off to Rotterdam to make that happen.
So what’s in Holland you ask? Well, only his estranged daughter Yumi who he decided to abandon while his wife Sheena was pregnant to pursue a life of playing rock music. Since then, no one has heard from him. Sadly, Sheena passed away, turning the care duties across to Bok and Rachelle. When Rustin shows up, he adopts a fake persona under the name of Clyde in an effort to get to know his daughter, Yumi.
What convinces Rustin to go to Rotterdam?
Rustin is 40 years old when we start the movie, and he’s a rocker without a family. He clearly feels unfulfilled and when his friend Diego collapses in the morning after a drug overdose, Rustin decides to turn his life around. Diego’s words echo in his head when he makes this decision. Diego’s words were “People who aren’t ready to die have unfulfilled lives.”
So what is the Doll House?
With Rachelle off on a work trip and Rustin spending more time with little Yumi, she heads over to his place and notices a project he’s been working on. Rustin’s not done with it yet but he promises she can have it when he’s finished. It’s a dollhouse.
This is symbolic for the home Rustin never had with Sheena, deciding to abandon the family and leave everything hollow and empty when it was once full. Seeing the house in pieces is a nice way of contextualizing what happened when Rustin abandoned them all to do drugs and play in his band.
How does Rachelle find out about Rustin?
Halfway through the movie, Rachelle rings Bok and the secret is out during a videocall. After saying goodnight to Yumi, the phone is spun round and Rustin is right there. Bok confronts Rustin in the kitchen when he learns the truth, pointing out he’s never been there for Yumi. All the way through Sheena’s pregnancy and the years Yumi has grown up, Rustin has been absent. “You owe us this much. Don’t mess with her [Yumi’s] life.” Bok says.
Bok doesn’t give Yumi a reason why she can’t see Rustin anymore, remaining defiant that she can’t see him. So naturally, as an inquisitive child, she heads over to Rustin’s place unannounced.
Why do Rustin and Yumi run away together?
After promising to take her to a singing audition, despite her having a bad voice but talent playing the keyboard, the pair run away and escape from Bok. He’s worried sick and just wants to look out for the girl. Rustin does ring him, telling Bok that he made a promise, but he switches his phone off afterwards.
Rustin and Yumi have one last day together, before Rustin tells his daughter it’ll be the last that they have fun like this. They stay in a hotel before the school auditions.
Unfortunately, Rustin gets blind drunk when she’s asleep, and in the morning he’s hungover and almost misses the performance. They make it to the audition just in time, but while Yumi’s singing isn’t very good, Rustin hears an angelic voice coming from her. Predictably, Yumi isn’t picked for the school play, but does pick up an important lesson about always trying, no matter what.
What happens to Rustin?
Rustin suddenly starts throwing up but it seems it’s just a reaction to the alcohol he drunk the night before. He heads home after saying goodbye, and immediately starts snorting cocaine and drinking alcohol again.
When Yumi, Rachelle and Bok show up to get the dollhouse Rustin promised the young girl, there’s a problem. Rustin has overdosed and is rushed to hospital. The dollhouse inside appears to be finished and complete. They don’t pick it up though, given Rustin’s absence.
Rustin gets himself back on track, gets a job and tries to see his daughter again. However, Rachelle is having none of it. Rustin visits Sheena at her grave instead, admitting he’s wasted everything in his life. He apologizes for the hurt he’s caused, admitting that it was love at first sight for him when he laid eyes on Sheena. He bemoans not trying harder when she was alive.
How does Doll House end?
Shortly after this incident, Bok and Rachelle leave to go and stay in a different house. Rustin does get sober, but only temporarily. Back in the Philippines he starts to make amends but relapses when his father dies. After playing a little too hard at a show, Rustin collapses and has a stroke.
Since this stroke, Rustin can’t remember much. And that brings us full circle to the start of the movie.
Yumi shows off pictures on her phone but Rustin doesn’t seem to remember her at all. She sticks around and helps him out all day, before taking Rustin back to his room.
Inside, he has a number of dollhouses dotted around the room he’s been working on. Rustin remembers that he’s doing this for his best friend who sings off-key, but can’t remember exactly who she is.
The movie finishes with a montage of the moments Rustin and Yumi spent together, reiterating how important she has been to his recovery.
In the end, she’s the only bright spark left in his life that’s been mired in addiction and misery. It seems to hint that Yumi will be sticking around for the long-haul and will try to bridge the gap between them, but with Rustin’s memory failing, it’s a sobering moment at the death of this movie, as it seems he never will have that connection with her.
Read More: Doll House Movie Review