Hidden Meanings Behind
the "Nocturnal Animals" Movie
(Spoilers)

Reviewed by Joy Davis

Synopsis: "Nocturnal Animals" is a mystery and suspense drama where the unresolved past between Susan Morrow, an art gallery owner, and  her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield, had unexpectedly resurfaced.  When a manuscript of Edward's newest book, "Nocturnal Animals," had arrived, Susan was immersed in the story to get the metaphorical message within the fictional story about a double murder of a visiting family driving through West Texas that was more about the emotional pain Edward felt she had caused during their troubled marriage.  

Warning: Spoilers within Presentation

Welcome to "Conscious Movie Reviews," I'm your host Joy Davis and here to review the mystery and suspense drama, "Nocturnal Animals." 

This analysis was done to honor a viewer's request made by martinanen385. 

"Nocturnal Animals" is a great study on how to understand the workings of the subconscious to create self-sabotage.  This will be explained throughout the review.

Grossly Obese Women

As an opening scene, several middle-aged, obese women danced happily in the nude.  They were part of an art gallery exhibit hosted by Susan Morrow in Los Angeles that she referred to as "Junk Culture."

Susan was drawn to them.  The women were very comfortable in their own skin, doing their shameless dance of joy. They were being authentic and uninhibited - the complete opposite of Susan's carefully-crafted, refined self that's emotionally repressed.  As a gallery owner, she showcased art, limiting her own creative impulses of artistic self-expression that can free up the joy within.  Being joyful and happy is our true, inherent nature.

The Novel Arrives for Susan

Living a lavish life with Hutton, her second husband, Susan was aware that he was cheating on her, but stayed quiet and non-confrontational about it.  His cheating ways reflected on the outer how Susan was emotionally unavailable - being unfaithful to the inner needs of her heart.

When Susan received a package, she opened it immediately, receiving a paper cut.  It was a manuscript, written by her estranged ex-husband, Edward Sheffield.  He dedicated the novel, "Nocturnal Animals," to her.  The title was a nickname he gave Susan long ago.

When the extraordinary event happens, it's usually an outward sign for us to pay extra attention because it holds symbolic meaning and is instructive about our life.  For Susan, she had not heard from her ex-husband in 19 years.  The paper cut was Edward's intent made manifest because he wanted her to "bleed" - to suffer emotionally.

Meddling, Judgmental Mother

Susan's first marriage fell apart as she became more like her disapproving mother - taking on her attitude about Edward as "weak" for being a romantic and very "fragile."  Susan was warned not to marry a starving artist with little ambition.  Her real equal, according to Mom, was Hutton.  Whenever Susan gave Edward lukewarm support about his writings, he was deeply offended.  

Many married couples struggle in their marriage from not realizing that each person enters the relationship with three others: her inner mother, inner father, and inner child and his inner mother, inner father and inner child.  All six can have unresolved wounds needing attention to complicate a marriage.

Throughout her youth and into young adulthood, Susan was imprinted with her mother's prejudices on a subconscious level - the area of the mind that has no filters of resistance.  It's no surprise then that she became more like her mother.  This supports the idea that if you want to know your partner better, get to know their parents. 

Because we subconsciously receive our capacity to love, accept and approve of others from our family, anyone who stretches us beyond our normal capacity often leads to self-sabotage.  When Edward stretched Susan's tolerance too far, she came to reject him and their marriage.    

Edward's Baby Aborted

On the day that Susan aborted Edward's baby, it was done secretly with Hutton by her side.  She felt so guilty about it.  To their horror, Edward was standing before them in shocked disbelief at what she had done. 

The abortion came to represent how Susan tends to reject the sensitivities of her heart that knows what's good for her well-being.  And by feeling guilty, it was Susan's call for punishment. 

According to Chuck Spezzano, creator of the Psychology of Vision, he teaches that when we feel bad or guilty, we create punishment for ourselves to get rid of the feeling.  We call in all kinds of things to punish ourselves - accidents, mishaps, failures, lack of money - any kind of penalty we can use to get over this feeling of guilt.  For Susan, it came in the form of Edward's new novel to torture her about their past.

A Message for Susan within the Novel

Edward channeled his pain by writing "Nocturnal Animals."  When Susan read it, she had a strong, visceral reaction.  This goes to show how the subconscious has no filters.  There's no distinction between what we see and hear, whether it's from watching TV, hearing it on radio, or seeing images from our own imagination.  Everything is recorded as the same kind of reality happening in the moment.  In other words, as Susan is reading it, her subconscious mind is living the scenes in the book, as if everything she reads is happening directly to her in the moment. This is not Edward's inner reality, but registered as her own.  

Within the story, Tony Hastings takes his wife and teenage daughter on a road trip to West Texas, going down a deserted stretch of highway at night.  They were in a nightmarish confrontation with men in a car who caused them to swerve, creating a flat tire.  It was a gang of three "rednecks," lead by Ray Marcus, a local psychopath. 

Giving the impression that they would help the family, Tony reluctantly trusted Ray's offer to help replace the tire if he would get a jack from the trunk.  This is similar to how Edward trusted Susan's support of his creative writing at first. 

Ray teased him with his dancing, wearing turquoise-colored boots. Based on the psychology of color, turquoise can relate to emotional coldness or indifference that shuts others out.

By distracting Tony, the other men trapped his wife and daughter in the car to drive away with them as he helplessly watched.  This is similar to how Edward was helpless to stop Susan from killing his baby, reinforcing the belief that he is "weak."  It also represented how he had played the victim in their marriage as an angry attack towards himself and her.

Tony escapes down the road crying, then hides between boulders while the men look for him.  He was in the clear by daylight. 

Detective Bobby Andes was assigned to the case, notifying Tony that the bodies of his wife and daughter were found in an old cattle station nearby.  They were naked in locked embrace on a red couch, representing the abortion that was passionately felt in a painfully, red-hot way by Edward.

Detective Andes was near retirement and suffering from lung cancer.  His disease can emotionally relate to how Edward's feelings from being broken-hearted is just like a cancer that kills by attacking himself from within.   

Acting as a vigilante with Detective Andes' backing, Tony killed one of Ray's men in private, then chased after Ray, firing at him in an abandoned trailer after admitting to the rape and murder by saying, "It's fun to kill people.  You should try it sometime."  This lawless act was symbolic of how Edward grew in confidence to not be "weak" anymore and stand up to Susan.

An Act of Revenge?!

Writing "Nocturnal Animals" was Edward's act of revenge.  Revenge is a place of hardened power struggle, teaches Chuck Spezzano, the creator of the Psychology of Vision.  To experience heartbreak means we have been on the losing end of a power struggle.  In these kinds of situations, we often use some form of emotional blackmail to fight back.  One of the best forms of emotional blackmail is heartbreak.  Being heartbroken is a way of being vengeful to get back at the other person.

In the end, Edward accepted her invitation to reconnect.  She primped in preparation for their dinner date, deciding to wipe off the red lipstick as a show of baring herself to him in an honest way. 

At the restaurant, Susan kept waiting for Edward, slowly coming to the realization that he stood her up as a final act of revenge.  This was, after all, the punishment she secretly wanted to get over her guilt.  


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