Netflix’s new hit comedy Dumplin’ is, at heart, a story of women and family. It’s specifically about the relationship between mothers and daughters, showing overweight, confident teenager Willowdean and her ruthless pageant-mom Rosie butt heads over the local beauty pageant. But there’s another woman involved: Aunt Lucy (played by Hillary Begley), Rosie’s sister.
We learn that young Willowdean had often been cared for by Lucy, while Rosie had been too busy working, and that she had been a formative influence on Willowdean’s life. Her death six months before the bulk of the story begins is a big part of the movie’s setup, and it’s the knowledge that Lucy had, herself, been too scared to enter the pageant years before that inspires Willowdean to enter in the present day.
Lucy is dead before the movie starts and only appears in flashbacks, but how does she die, exactly?
The movie, like the novel on which it’s based, doesn’t spell out her cause of death — but it does touch on it during a conversation between Willowdean and Rosie. It’s strongly implied that Lucy dies from some complication or health issue related to her weight; she, like Will, had been on curvy her whole life.
Instead of making her into a cautionary tale or the “before” to a thin makeover “after,” however, both Lucy and Willowdean are shown to be lively, confident, and beautiful women who embrace their weight as something gorgeous. Now that’s a message we can all support!