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Nocturnal Animals | A Manuscript, Metaphors & Foreshadowing

Nocturnal Animals paints a story of choices and heartbreak on a canvas of metaphors.

Screen written and Directed by Fashion Designer Tom Ford, The 2016 Drama Thriller Movie "Nocturnal Animals" is based on the 1993 novel "Tony and Susan" written by Austin Wright.

The story revolves around the gallery owner, Susan Morrow played by Amy Adams as she takes a walk down memory lane while reading the manuscript of her ex-husband, Edward played by Jake Gyllenhaal.

Through her dismay of reading the troubling words on the pages, she's forced to reflect on choices she's made and has to start looking inwardly to recognize the damage she's done to herself and to those around her.



The Gallery

The movie starts with ladies of a larger persuasion dancing on small white stages, dressed in small increments of red and white. The viewers, including the gallery owner are wearing all black.

Susan's Home

After we leave the gallery we're in Susan's home of clean lines and modern accents. Between the size of the home, the architecture and the furnishings, It's clear that Susan is wealthy. This is confirmed during her interaction with one of her staff members. During this interaction, Susan receives a package from her ex-husband containing his latest manuscript.

Hutton Morrow

Susan tells her current husband Hutton Morrow played by Armie Hammer about the package and they have a short conversation about Edward, his writing career and the fact that she hasn't spoken to him in almost 20 years

The Manuscript

Susan starts to read Edward's manuscript and reads a representation of Edward's perspective. The story starts with the family, Tony (Representation of Edward), Laura (Isla Fisher as Laura Hastings) and their daughter India (Ellie Bamber as India Hastings) going on a family trip. During their travels, they have a run-in with locals who subsequently cause the demise of Laura and India

After seeing what happened to his family, Tony goes on an active hunt to find the criminals with the help of Detective Andes played by Michael Shannon as Detective Bobby Andes. During these scenes, we can see the gut-wrenching hurt and pain that this has inflicted on his life - before we're reminded that this story is a part of the manuscript.

Susan's Revelation

Susan is taken into the depths of Edward's mind as she reads a story that describes a great deal of harm being done to the woman that she sees as herself and to the daughter they never had, at the hands of men that ran them off the road as a result of road rage.

As Susan continues to read, she replays the course of her relationship with Edward. She goes back in time and recalls a conversation with her mother (Laura Linney as Anne Sutton), arguments between her and Edward and the moment she knew she broke Edwards heart.

Between scenes of her waking life, her memory and re-enactments of the tales in the book, Susan starts to realize how her choices meant the difference between the happiness she's searching for and the emptiness she currently feels.



The opening scenes gives off clues about the type of movie this will be.

The Dancers

Colors worn by certain characters usually gives a clue about the characters wearing those colors, but instead of describing the characteristics of the ladies, these scenes set the mood for the rest of the film.

I have to be honest here, I'm not sure about the meaning of the message in the opening scene, but here's my theory...

The women might represent the upper class or maybe even the top 1%

The Highway could represent the society at large

As a society, we have a tendency to put those in the upper echelon on pedestals for various reasons. With that pedestal, they're able to "eat" and get full off the riches of those that support them, while neglecting the part of themselves that truly makes them happy. Ironically, it can be those same riches and fame that will destroy some.

The life of a person may seem plentiful from the outside looking in - but on the inside, there's an internal struggle that can't be resolved, regardless of how much wealth or fortune the person has obtained - which mirrors the whole concept of the film.

As for the viewers of the show in all black, they tend to fade in the background, like regular people. It's common nature for a person of success to be held up higher than someone that is seen as a regular person. It's not right, but that's why I called it common nature - human nature should be to embrace any good person regardless of their financial standing - but I digress.

These scenes could act as a foreshadowing of the relationship Susan and Edward shared. Susan's wealthy, but she's about to come face to face with an internal struggle. Edward put Susan on a pedestal - but instead of receiving love, he was disposed of with no regard.

Susan and Hutton

In these scenes, Susan is wearing all black representing her power, wealth and authority. Her husband is wearing Navy, which also stands for authority, especially when used for the color of a suit. Initially, life seems to be good between the two, until we start to see the power struggle between the couple. A struggle that regards matters of the heart, not of finance.

When Susan and Hutton met in college, she was still married to Edward. She made a choice to leave Edward for a life that would promise wealth and stability with Hutton.

For Susan, black doesn't just represent authority, it represents a darkness, showing how she felt about her choices and in turn it also represents her current mental state. She's unhappy and regrets the choice she made to leave Edward. He wasn't a rich man, but he loved her - only wanting her to believe in him.

Her hope has now been replaced with pessimism and the ray of happiness that was once ridiculed is now missed and desired.


PART III - The Manuscript


While reading the manuscript, Susan recalls conversations between her and Edward and she remembers times that it was alluded that he was weak. She didn't express this in dialogue between the two, but it was implied that this was an ongoing conversation as Edward spoke his mind during arguments about her lack of support.

When we meet Tony, he's wearing a black and red large printed flannel patterned shirt and brown pants. Red and black used together usually represents a mix of power and sacrifice but here, I think red and black may stand more for love, passion and sacrifice. His brown pants would represent that he is the protector of family providing safety and reliability.

Edward expressed his feelings of inadequacy through the Tony character - from the struggle with the goons and the eventual loss of his family - to finding a way to piece his life back together. He was powerless to what happened and more than likely felt guilt for not being able to do more.

The colors red and black also foreshadowed what would happen to the Laura and India in the story.

The 3 Men & Hutton

Since the men worked together, I won't be going over their individual outfits, but I'll talk about what they represent as a whole.

There's a ring leader and 2 followers. The leader Ray Marcus, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson taunts and agitates Tony, while his flunkies Lou played by Karl Glusman and Turk played by Robert Aramayo - go along with him, just doing what he says - which gave me the impression that these guys represent Hutton as a whole - including details about him that adds salt to Edward's wounds.

As a whole, they are arrogant, immature and they run their small town with fear. Mirroring Hutton as he is arrogant as well. Other things about him like his height, his good looks, his wealth and education just aggravates the feeling of rejection for Edward - representing the idea the Edward sees Hutton as everything that he isn't

If this is the interpretation - it would show that Edward felt powerless and inadequate in comparison to Hutton. He felt that his family was violated and he was powerless to fight back.

The Detective

Law enforcement

The detective Bobby Andes, played by Michael Shannon appears to be a representation of Edward pulling himself back together. The detective was stern and straight forward...But he was also dealing with an incurable illness and a short time to live. Knowing that he was retiring soon and time was not his friend, he was willing to break the law to see justice done.

Edward may have felt that if he was stern or straightforward - he may have done a better job with keeping Susan happy. The fact that the detective was sick - could represent the extent of Edward's pain and the sickness of his heart. The part of him that was a vigilante could represent the fact that Edward wanted to pummel that man that destroyed his family.

The detective wears browns and white - reflecting that he is reliable and stable. The white could represent the pureness of pain in Edward's heart towards Susan. But being that white could represent new beginnings or a clean slate - it could also represent the part of Edward's life where he starts to pick up the pieces to become a productive man by putting the hurt behind him.


Tony is later shown in brown and white, representing that he was reborn in a sense, a new person able to take control of his circumstances and the situation, not allowing anyone to cross the line of disrespect.

At the end, Edward accidentally puts himself out of his misery - metaphorically leaving his old life - and learning how to start anew. His struggle also seems to run in tandem with the 5 stages of grief - with acceptance coming after depression. Meaning that he was no longer fighting his inner turmoil and made a decision to start a new life as a new man.


PART IV - The End of the Story

By the end of the film, Susan got a strong dose of her own medicine. Edward was able to heal and move on and expressed this by standing her up for dinner. Giving Susan a clear signal that he was no longer interested in taking a part in her happiness.

As a whole, I really enjoyed the film. I liked the way it looked, the subtle hints and metaphors and I really enjoyed how it was able to draw me in and allow me to root for a character.

The only negative thing I would say is about this film was the jump scare - when Susan saw a vision of Ray Marcus from the manuscript in her employees phone.

It literally scared the crap out of me, so it did it's job - but I didn't really understand why it was there. I get the idea that it was to tell me that Edward was on Susan's mind - but it did take me away from the story a little as I tried to figure out how she was able to create an image in her mind strong enough to scare her in her real world.

It could've represented the point where she realized how much damage she had done.

Fully realizing that she was the cause of her own pain and the entire reason why she's not with someone that truly loved and adored her - but I'm not definitively sure.


Other than that I would recommend this to anyone that enjoys seeing vibrant, beautiful images on screen. It's visually striking and has a message that almost anyone can relate to with metaphors that are clear and thought provoking.

It combines all of the elements of a Drama Thriller and paints them beautifully on a moving canvas.

In general, I could immerse in this film - which is really hard for me to do because my brain is wired to see patterns - so kudos for that. I could see the pain that Susan felt after she realizes what she's done to herself and I could also feel the hurt and pain felt by Edward as he had to deal with rejection from the woman he's loved since he was a young man.

This truly makes one stop and think about how to treat people. To take the time to look at the value that a person has in their life - not just for what they can offer financially, but how they can enrich the soul and give love from a place of purity and admiration. If the love is healthy - be careful to feed and cultivate it, before being quick to throw it away.

If you want to watch this film, it's currently available on Netflix. And on that note- have an awesome day - be good to yourself and good to others - Peace.


Image Credit


© Merrick Morton/Focus Features

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