A friend of mine asked me this after seeing Whiplash (2014) last night, and I was not quite happy with my own answer, so I'll throw it out there to see if someone can up with somthing more conclusive:

The movie is about a young drummer (Andrew) who tries to achieve greatness and a teacher who pushes his students to the limit with questionable methods.

The main plot revolves around Andrew trying really hard to make it in Fletcher's band and the relationship between him and Fletcher. However there is a sidestory about Andrew and his interest in the girl that works at the cinema, who he dates at first but then drops again after struggling with his spot in the band.

What is the point of the girlfriend plot line? It seems rather unrelated to most of the main plot and is handled too shortly to be of much relevance on its own. (e.g. as an additional love story element in the movie)

Why were those scenes put in there?

My interpretation was that this is supposed to show Andrew's determination, that this was set up so that he can break up with her for the music, showing that at this point he is willing to do everything it takes. Is there more to it? And what does it mean that he is trying to reconnect with the girl in the end?

2 Answers 2


You are pretty bang on the money.

Andrew's relationship with his girlfriend and subsequent break up was meant to indicate that he is now taking his drumming more seriously than his personal relationships, and that he has consciously and calmly decided that he would rather pursue his drumming ambitions than be with another person. This is meant to show us that Andrew is beginning to lose sight of what his priorities should be.

Consequently, when he tries to get in contact with his ex-girlfriend towards the end of the film, we are being shown that unlike Andrew, she has managed to move on and start a new, presumably healthier relationship with someone else, whereas his social life has been effectively ruined by his obsession.

In short, the whole story arc with his girlfriend is meant to show how damaging his relationship with his tutor has become, and how his obsession has harmed him more than he initially realized.

  • So did he break his obsession in the end? After all he was pursuing her again, probably because he noticed how unhealthy his behaviour was getting?
    – magnattic
    Feb 3, 2015 at 13:52
  • Arguably, yes, after being free from his tutors influence fo a while his realised what a mistake he had made - which makes his reconcilliation with Fletcher at the end of the film feel rather bitter sweet, because we can see that Andrew has already fallen back under his spell. Feb 3, 2015 at 13:53
  • I like your answer, I was gonna answer myself adding how the girlfriend scenes were the human touch to the character, and how he gradually lost all his human side by being fully dedicated to the drumming. As to when he tried to regain contact and failed, we see that the glimmer of hope gave rebirth to that side, a short rebirth of course. Feb 4, 2015 at 13:30
  • I disagree completely. The girl's character functions as a diametric opposite to Andrew right from the introduction. She has no passions, drives or ambition and fails to respect those of others. The call is just a restatement that others don't understand or see anything special about his work and ambitions. Jun 4, 2017 at 5:45

The "I'll cue you" comment aimed at Fletcher during the final performance signifies that Andrew has become, and surpassed the challenges set forth by Fletcher; Andrew quite literally takes over Fletcher's direction of the band through his playing and their response. He is essentially becoming a (the?) new bandleader, creative in his own right, similarly to his idol Buddy Rich. Further, you can get a feel that he is leading (or, would lead in the future) in a totally different manner than Fletcher – Fletcher through fear and tension, and Andrew through excitement of skill & technique (surpassing the dictatorial model of Fletcher). The latter model, like Fletcher’s method, would likely condone a spirit of competitiveness and resulting success for the ensemble, however, via achievement of goals (and/or reaching new heights and/or inter-musicianship challenges base on ability) rather than fear of negative repercussions – though which is faster and/or more successful in the end is debatable.

@ the original question, Andrew’s place for personal relationships – previously removed during his decent under Fletcher’s thumb – now shows improvement through both his contacting Nicole and through his acceptance of his father’s consolation after Fletcher’s final attack (the first, unknown tune).

I liken the film to a chess or boxing match, each of the two –tagonists taking steps/blows to win the overlying ‘game.’

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