Nocturnal Animals Review: What Does the Ending of Mean?

The meaning of the film Nocturnal Animals: explanation of the plot & ending. Nocturnal Animals is a psychological thriller created by former fashion designer Tom Ford. It was released on screens in 2016. The audience perceived the story of unfulfilled hopes, disappointment, revenge in different ways. The meaning of the film Nocturnal Animals is not easy to decipher because of the dual storyline. Especially many questions are raised by the ending of the film, which remains a mystery to the audience.

Description of the story

The film opens with Susan Morrow receiving a package containing the manuscript of her ex-husband Edward Sheffield’s Nocturnal Animals. The book makes the heroine remember the past.

Interesting! The plot of the film Nocturnal Animals is based on the novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright.

Throughout the picture, the viewer has the opportunity to observe three storylines:

  • real life of heroes;
  • past;
  • drama in the novel.

A better understanding of the meaning of the film Nocturnal Animals will help to analyze each story separately.


Edward and Susan are two young people who dream of being creative. The guy is studying to be a writer, the girl wants to become an artist. They fall in love with each other, but for some time their paths diverge.

Having met after a few years, the young people decide to get married. Susan’s mother dissuades her daughter from taking a serious step, motivating her not by Edward’s ability to get rich. Susan, against the advice of her mother, marries Sheffield, promising to support in all endeavors.

After a while, Susan gets tired of living with Edward. She has a lover – businessman Hutton Morrow. At the same time, the heroine finds out about the pregnancy, but, not wanting to continue living with Sheffield, she has an abortion.

Edward learns about everything when he sees his wife with her lover near the hospital. Before leaving, the heroine insults her husband, calling mediocrity, a deadhead who writes only about himself. Soft, romantic Edward can’t keep his wife. Susan marries Morrow.

The present

19 years have passed. Susan is the owner of the gallery, the wife of businessman Hutton. At first glance, it seems that the heroine is doing well – her own business, a successful handsome husband, daughter. But if you look closely, everything is not so rosy. Morrow, who dreams of painting, did not become an artist, but sells paintings by fashionable painters, from which the heroine sometimes becomes sick. Relations with the daughter do not add up. Husband cheats, and Hutton’s business is gradually falling apart.

Interesting! The great-grandfather of Armie Hammer, who played the role of Hutton, knew Lenin, and the great-grandmother was a Russian actress.

The heroine begins depression, insomnia. At this time, Susan receives greetings from the past – an unpublished novel by her ex-husband.

The plot of the novel

The protagonist of the book, Tony Hastings, together with his family (wife Laura, daughter India) is driving a car to rest outside the city. On the way, they cross paths with a car with three guys. After forcing Tony to stop, two guys get into his car, taking away the women, the third takes his father to the edge of the forest, leaving him there.

The next morning, Tony goes to the police station and, together with the police, finds the corpses of his wife and daughter.

Interesting! Writer Edward Sheffield and mathematician Tony Hastings were played by one actor – Jake Gyllenhaal.

Having buried his relatives, Tony continues to live on. After a while, the bandits are caught during an attempted robbery. One was shot dead by the police, the second was detained, the third managed to escape. Police officer Andes finds a runaway bandit and invites Tony to avenge the death of loved ones. Hastings kills the bandit, then, accidentally shooting himself in the stomach, dies.

At the end of the film UNocturnal Animals, Susan, having finished reading the book and realizing that Edward has written a masterpiece, invites the writer to meet. Edward agrees, but does not come to the meeting.

Ending and hidden meaning

Many viewers remained incomprehensible how the film ended Nocturnal Animals. Why didn’t Sheffield come to the meeting?

Who is who?

Edward sent the book to Susan for a reason. Once, a beloved reproached the writer that he writes only about himself. The new novel is also about him.

Tony is Edward. Wife Laura personifies the ideal that Susan was for the writer. India is an unborn daughter. In the face of nocturnal animals (bandits Lou, Ray, Terk) appears Morrow, who killed not only their child and family, but also the artist in herself.

Having shown Tony’s inability to protect his loved ones, the writer confesses his lack of courage to save his family. For many years, the hero was tormented by the thought that he did not correspond to the cult of power accepted in society. The result of the torment was a novel sent to the heroine.


Some points that the director focuses on will help to understand the true meaning of the film:

  • A scratched finger during the opening of the book indicates the pain Susan has experienced since the first minutes of reading the novel.
  • The picture, in which one person shoots another, reminds the heroine of the plot of the book.
  • Another point indicating pain is an animal riddled with arrows.
  • Poster with the inscription “Revenge”.

After reading the novel, it seems to the heroine that life has gone the wrong way. Susan goes to a meeting with the goal of changing her life. Some viewers believe that the meaning of the ending of the film Nocturnal Animals is revenge, which is why Edward did not come to the meeting. Others – that the hero simply did not want or could not come.

The true motives of the writer remain unsolved. In Sheffield’s novel, the hero dies. Perhaps by not coming to the meeting, Edward wanted to show that the part of his soul that loved Susan had also died.

The film Nocturnal Animals, like many films with meaning, captures thinking people, trying to understand the essence of the work and share what they saw. The film forces you to reconsider your life in order to answer the question – was it possible to live life differently?

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