Spoilers for Doctor Sleep!
The story of The Shining isn’t incredibly optimistic or positive. Out of the many different interpretations of the film, they all seem to be about the negative aspects of the human condition. Jack Torrance was an alcoholic, he was experiencing writer’s block, isolation can have terrible effects on a person, and so on and so forth.
My point here is that you come out of watching The Shining with a pessimistic outlook on things. One could assume more of the same is about to come when walking into Doctor Sleep. And this movie does start off with a hopeless feeling. But by the end, you come to realize that this movie is effectively the (extremely effective) thematic antithesis to its predecessor.
After we learn that the titular shining refers to Danny Torrance’s supernatural abilities, a new kind of story is uncovered. Doctor Sleep proceeds to introduce Rose the Hat and the True Knot, her group of followers, who are a dark group of people who feed off of people with strong abilities to shine. As it turns out, the people with the highest abilities to shine are typically teenagers or pre-teens.
Right here is the metaphorical crux of the movie. The True Knot represents everything dark and twisted in the world. Evil, hate, and fear constantly threaten to overtake us at every turn in our lives. They seem to come from everywhere and don’t allow us to experience all the good there is in the world. Evil and darkness metaphorically feeds on our fears, just like the True Knot literally does.
But, those who shine are able to fight back against this seemingly perpetual darkness. In this movie, those who shine most strongly are Dan (Ewan McGregor) and Abra (Kyliegh Curran). They have a light inside them that is strong enough to allow them to fight back against their demons and fears.
The real beauty in this comes when it is revealed that everybody shines, at least a little bit, though most people don’t even realize it. Everyone has the capability to unlock that part of themselves that allows them to fight the darkness. All they need is for someone else to guide them – we can’t do it on our own. Hallorann played this role for Dan when he was young, and then Dan was able to play the same role for Abra.
There is a point where Dan is ready to cut Abra out of his life because he doesn’t want to endanger her, but Hallorann tells him the importance of nurturing her abilities. Good things are often very scary or even dangerous to initiate. But that is part of what makes that thing worth doing. The difficulty of getting it done helps you grow.
Just like Dan needed to be brought out of his alcoholism and substance abuse to go help others, it was important for Abra to learn the need for selflessness at a young age. We learn that as you grow older, your shine begins to fade. Perhaps this is due to your general hope for the world slowly decreasing over time, or maybe it is because you inherently have less and less time to make a difference as you age. Either way, Doctor Sleep stresses the importance of imparting this important knowledge to young people. They are the world’s hope – the ones who can make a real difference in the world.
Everyone shines in their own way. We may not be able to defeat an evil agent of darkness alone in the Overlook Hotel, but then again, that is why it is important to have other people. We are all still able to enter the room at the end of the hall with darkness threatening to overtake us and face it head on, without fear.