amanda’s review published on Letterboxd:
i truly love the final scene when jake gives star a turtle, the next in the array of little gifts he presents her with to win her trust, pressing it into her hand and slinking back into the crowd. star looks at it, looks back at jake, and returns it to the lake. regardless of the thought behind it, this final gift is the breaking point, the final straw in whatever was holding star to jake and to the group.
star loves animals, but what no one quite seems to notice is that she loves them as fellow creatures, caring for them and protecting them from the dangerous human environments they are in, releasing them back to safety in the wild. star notices these animals and recognizes their fear and lack of control. yet she cannot save every animal, and she cannot save every person she comes across. star sees herself in the things around her: in the animals, in the people, in the stories they tell. she is sympathetic to a fault. she has little control over the things in her life, but when she has the chance, each decision she makes on her own accord is one she takes with consideration to those around her, or to benefit someone else.
star loves jake, and jake may well love her, but fundamentally their relationship simply cannot survive. star does not reach an orgasm a single time that the two have sex, though jake does, and she is left to hold on to him, unfulfilled, until he deems it time to leave. jake lets star’s worth be defined by her loyalty to him, regardless of his own activities (which are known to star) outside of their relationship, while simultaneously ignoring her good intentions.
this all comes to a head in the aforementioned scene with the turtle. jake hands star the turtle, expecting it to act as a peace offering, or perhaps simply as another object to win back her heart following an abrupt freakout and abandonment. what jake doesn’t understand, what he’ll never understand, is that star does not have a different lens to look at the world through when it best suits her. she doesn’t have another “mode” like jake does- no guise to slip under to gain money or gain trust. she is wholly herself, entirely honest, and at the core of star’s being she is a person who loves the world and loves the animals around her. she cannot see this as a gift. she sees the turtle as a creature, like her, now without control. it is young and needs to grow. jake giving star the turtle is him once and for all showing her that he does not understand her, that he will never understand her. she is sincere, he is not. bearing that imbalance their relationship cannot sustain itself, and in that moment, star realizes it. as she returns the turtle to the lake, saves it from a life of captivity like the one she used to know (and still knows even within the group), she too returns to the water. she sinks down as the music blares out behind her and the flames roar, and when she rises up again, there is nothing but the sound of droplets and flies. in submerging her body- now a product of the new environment she has been in- and the turtle- symbolic of her and jake’s relationship- in the water, she has given herself new life. both she and the turtle must grow without someone trying to control them. star is letting go of the group and she is letting go of jake. she is reborn, christened by her own hand, and at last she is free.