How does Red find Andy in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’?
(Credit: Netflix)

Film Flashback

How does Red find Andy in 'The Shawshank Redemption'?

The Shawshank Redemption is one of the most popular movie adaptations of a Stephen King novel ever made. Previously untested filmmaker Frank Darabont wrote and directed the big-screen version starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.

Darabont’s movie has since acquired classic status, and is acclaimed as one of the best films of all time by many cinema enthusiasts. It’s also turned Freeman into the ultimate voiceover narrator in show business.

The ending of the film still leaves some viewers puzzled, however, as they watch Freeman’s character Red walk across a beach to meet Robbins’ protagonist, Andy Dufresne. What are the chances that the two would have been able to meet again? Red had remained in Shawshank prison after Andy’s escape, and the two had likely spent many years without seeing each other.

Following his escape, Andy had to assume a false identity, posing under the alias Randall Stephens to withdraw money he’d saved from doing work in prison. Red, meanwhile, mentions in his narration immediately before the movie’s final shot that he has to “make it across the border” to see his friend and the Pacific Ocean.

Where does Red reunite with Andy?

In fact, the seeds for this journey were sown the day before Andy’s escape from Shawshank. He had told Red about a Mexican town on the Pacific coast called Zihuatanejo, where he planned to open a hotel after leaving prison. This conversation was the ultimate “Chekhov’s gun” placed surreptitiously by King in his novella to bring back for the story’s finale. The film version adapts it like-for-like.

Dufresne had also told Red at the end of that conversation to go up to “a big hayfield up near Buxton, one in particular. It’s got a long rock wall with a big oak tree at the north end.” Red listens attentively while close-up camera shots and suspenseful music act as dead giveaways that this is a pivotal moment in the movie. “You’ll find a rock that has no earthly business in a Maine hayfield,” Andy continues. “There’s something buried under there I want you to have.”

Once he’s released from prison, Red eventually relents to his curiosity and goes in search of the strange stone in the wall by the big oak tree in the Maine hayfield. Underneath the stone, he finds a letter from Andy confirming that he’s moved to Zihuatanejo and inviting Red to join him. He’s enclosed some money with the letter for Red’s journey.

And so, Red “violates his parole” to head all the way down to Mexico, on multiple greyhound buses. In the final scene, which Darabont was reportedly unhappy with, Red has apparently already asked around Zihuatanejo, a town populated by almost 100,000 at the time, and managed to locate Andy cleaning a boat on the beach.

The spectacular unlikelihood of this reunion hasn’t been helped by the advent of mobile phones, which makes all this effort to plan it without any form of telecommunication seem rather silly. 

Nonetheless, it’s the payoff we as an audience are looking forward at the end of a feel-good story. One that gives Red, who actually did serve out his life sentence in prison, the redemption we’d assumed was going to be Andy’s.