Tom Ford’s 2016 psychological thriller, “Nocturnal Animals,” is an exploration of love and loss that crosses the line between reality and fiction. Amy Adams stars as Susan Morrow, a successful yet hollow art gallery owner who must confront her tumultuous past when she receives a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal). As stories intertwine to form a complex web of deceitful motivations and revenge plots, this compelling film draws viewers into its depths while leaving them with lingering questions about justice in relationships both real and imagined.
Please note that this article contains major spoilers for the movie “Nocturnal Animals.”
“Nocturnal Animals” ending explained: The film concludes with Susan, who realizes the novel is a symbolic representation of her past actions and their impact on Edward, waiting for him at a restaurant, but he never shows up. Edward’s absence can be interpreted as a form of revenge or as a sign of closure, leaving Susan to confront her guilt and the consequences of her past choices.
The Three Narrative Threads: Susan’s Life, Her Past With Edward, And The Novel
To fully comprehend the resolution of “Nocturnal Animals,” one must deeply analyze how the three narrative threads—Susan’s current life, her recollections of Edward and their past relationship, as well as Edward’s novel storyline—all intertwine.
Susan’s present-day life is marked by a sense of emotional emptiness and dissatisfaction, despite her outward success and wealth. Her marriage to her second husband, Hutton (played by Armie Hammer), is faltering, and her career in the art world leaves her feeling unfulfilled.
The second narrative thread explores Susan’s past relationship with Edward, from their initial meeting and courtship to their eventual breakup, which is prompted by Susan’s dissatisfaction with Edward’s lack of ambition and her desire for a more conventional, secure life.
The plot of Edward’s novel, “Nocturnal Animals,” forms the third narrative thread. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Tony Hastings, a man whose family is savagely attacked on a road trip and tragically killed. Overwhelmed with grief, Tony embarks on an unrelenting mission for retribution which he attempts to carry out alongside Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon), a determined detective who will stop at nothing in order to bring justice to those responsible for the heinous act against his loved ones.
Reading Edward’s novel, Susan is astounded by the similarities between its story and her own life. She must come face to face with the results of her decisions in both her life and Edward’s. With each page turned, she re-evaluates how much influence she has had on their lives.
The Novel’s Climax: Revenge, Regret, And Loss
In the climactic scenes of the novel, Tony and Detective Andes track down the criminals responsible for the deaths of Tony’s wife and daughter. During a tense confrontation, Detective Andes is killed, and Tony manages to kill one of the criminals but is mortally wounded in the process. As he stumbles through the desert, blinded by his injuries, Tony accidentally shoots himself and dies.
In the novel’s emotionally charged finale, Tony’s pursuit of retribution is a representation of Susan and Edward’s shared narrative of revenge, regret, and loss. His graven retaliation proves to be his own undoing – an illustration that vengeance does not bring peace or solace but instead is often futile and self-destructive. “Nocturnal Animals” ends with an affecting reminder that atoning for past wrongs demands more than simply exacting revenge; it necessitates reconciliation as well.
Susan’s Realization: The Impact Of Her Past And Edward’s Revenge
As Susan finishes reading the novel, she comes to the painful realization that it serves as a symbolic representation of her own past actions and their impact on Edward. The brutal and senseless violence inflicted upon Tony’s family in the novel can be seen as a metaphor for the emotional damage Susan inflicted upon Edward when she left him for Hutton, as well as the trauma of their shared abortion, which Susan chose to undergo without consulting Edward.
This realization forces Susan to confront her own regrets and the consequences of her past choices, leading her to reassess her present life and recognize that her pursuit of wealth, status, and security has left her feeling empty and unfulfilled.
The Final Scene: The Unanswered Question
In the film’s final scene, Susan arranges to meet Edward at a restaurant to discuss the novel and presumably to apologize for her past actions. As she waits for him, dressed elegantly and nervously anticipating their reunion, it becomes increasingly clear that Edward is not going to show up. The movie ends with Susan alone in the restaurant, the weight of her past decisions and the pain of Edward’s absence hanging heavily over her.
This conclusion leaves the audience with an unanswered question: why did Edward choose not to show up for their meeting? One possible interpretation is that his absence serves as a form of revenge for the emotional pain Susan inflicted upon him years earlier. By dedicating the novel to Susan and sending it to her, Edward forces her to confront her own guilt and the consequences of her actions, making her experience a taste of the emotional suffering that he has had to endure.
Another possible interpretation is that Edward’s absence is intended to signify his final act of closure, a way for him to move on from the past and let go of the pain and anger he has harbored toward Susan. By not showing up, Edward demonstrates that he has regained control over his own life and is no longer defined by his past relationship with Susan.
“Nocturnal Animals” is a film that masterfully intertwines multiple narratives and explores complex themes of love, loss, revenge, and the blurred lines between fiction and reality. By exploring the complexity of the narrative arcs, delving into symbolism within the plotline, and tracing each character’s emotional journey throughout “Nocturnal Animals,” we have illuminated what makes this movie a riveting, thought-provoking cinematic masterpiece.
“Nocturnal Animals” immerses viewers in a poignant conversation about emotions, relationships, and the ramifications of our choices. Its captivating story paired with outstanding performances will have everyone considering the consequences of love, grief, and revenge that permeate throughout this mesmerizing movie.