Study Guide

Close Encounters of the Third Kind Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon)

Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon)

Single mom Jillian Guiler has a rough time of it in Close Encounters. She receives an otherworldly sunburn; her son is almost hit by a truck; she tries to fend off an alien invasion of her home and ultimately watches her son being abducted, and she has to travel to Wyoming into a potential death zone to rescue her boy. She's a loving and attentive mom who turns relentless in following her instincts to get her son back.

Girl is due some serious R&R after this ordeal is over.

Woman on a Mission

Jillian's naturally curious about the UFO visitors after their first drive-by at her place. She joins Roy and the others on UFO- watcher's hill to see if they'll return. She even gets excited when the lights fly over the hill, calling it "Halloween for grownups." She isn't even getting candy out of the deal.

Jillian's also been implanted with the image of the mountain. But while Roy obsesses over the mountain image and flies off the handle when he can't figure it out, Jillian looks meditative while sketching, looking content and dreamy while Barry plays the five-note phrase on his xylophone.

Later on, things get a little less trick-or-treat and way more haunted house. In a house call reminiscent of a horror film, the aliens invade Jillian's house and abduct Barry. They push down the chimney, they shine eerie light through the windows, and their technology wreaks havoc on her appliances. Although she does her best to protect her son, Barry slips through the doggy door and is abducted up into the blinding light.

When Jillian sees Devils Tower on the television, she's overwhelmed with relief. She knows where her boy is, so off she goes. Jillian and Roy's paths soon converge at Devils Tower. But although they share they same path, they do so for very different reasons. Hiding in the rocky outcrops above the alien landing site, the two watch humanity make first contact with our extraterrestrial visitors:

ROY: Want to see better?

JILLIAN: I can see fine.

ROY: We can't stay here.

JILLIAN: I can.

ROY: Why?

JILLIAN: Because Barry's not here. I'm just not ready.

ROY: I can't stay here. I've got to get down there.

Jillian's here to find her son, not to complete some personal quest like Roy. She was "invited" to Devils Tower only to pick up her son; she scrambles onto the site when she feels the time is right. In the end, she's reunited with Barry as the toddler exits the mother ship with the rest of the aliens' houseguests. The two stick around to watch as Roy joins the aliens on their intergalactic peace tour.

We don't know what happens to them after this, but we assume they live their normal lives happily ever. Jillian seems the kind of mom who's equipped to help Barry process his experience, and if his buddies come back for another visit, we doubt she'll be as frightened. We just hope the government doesn't drag Barry off to Area 51 for some scientific experiments.

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