The Return is a 2006 psychological thriller directed by Asif Kapadia. The film stars Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kate Beahan, Peter O'Brien, and Sam Shepard. It was released theatrically on November 10, 2006, and on DVD on February 27, 2007.
The Return is focused on a 25 year-old woman named Joanna Mills (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a travelling rep for a trucking company, dedicated to her successful career but something of a loner. Since the age of 11 she has been a troubled person, with episodes of self-mutilation and menacing visions. Normally she avoids returning to her native Texas, but agrees to a trip there to secure an important client. During the trip her visions, which take the form of memories of events not from her life, increase in intensity. She sees a strange face staring back at her in the mirror. Her truck radio develops a will of its own and insists on playing Patsy Cline's "Sweet Dreams" no matter what station she selects. She stops at the scene of an accident that, on the following day, seems not to have happened. Joanna cuts herself in a bar restroom and is narrowly rescued by a friend. She visits her father, who observes that from age 11 she was "a different girl". The visions continue, becoming both more specific and more threatening, centering upon a menacing man she does not recognize and a bar she has never seen, but a picture of which is in one of her catalogs.
Drawn by the catalog image to the Texas town where the bar is located, a place she has not been since childhood, Joanna meets a man named Terry Stahl, whose wife, Annie, was stalked, brutally assaulted, and left to die fifteen years before, a crime of which Terry was suspected but not convicted. Joanna continues to have visions of this crime and the events that led up to it, and to discover other links between Annie's life and hers. She meets the real killer and is led by what she has seen in her visions to recover the knife he used from its hiding place. She is then herself stalked by the now suspicious stalker. Inevitably, she finds herself drawn into a repetition of the crime, but this time she stabs her assailant with the recovered knife, using the original weapon to avenge the original crime.
The story ends with the revelation that Annie, clinging to life as Terry drove her to the hospital after the original assault, died when his car crashed into one driven by Joanna's father, in which the eleven-year-old Joanna was a passenger. After momentary unconsciousness, the young Joanna seems to have survived the crash. But is she still Joanna, or has she died and her soul been replaced by that of the dying Annie? Perhaps Annie now lives in Joanna's body, or perhaps Joanna is still Joanna, and has received from Annie only a set of vicarious memories, together with a subconscious need to replay, and avenge, the crime. In the final scene, a silent Joanna is seen reflecting on who she is, and what has happened to her. She seems to reach an inner resolution of these questions, but what that is we are not told.
An alternative ending included on the DVD release more straightforwardly supports the interpretation that Annie's soul has been placed in Joanna's body.
MPAA rated PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing images.
Except for TV trailer spots, there wasn't any publicity nor a premiere for the film, as Sarah Michelle Gellar was busy shooting the movie Possession in Vancouver, British Columbia. The movie only earned a disappointing $7.7 million dollars. Worldwide, the movie made $14,949,851.