For those uninitiated in Nicholas Roeg’s style, “Don’t Look Now” may seem mysterious and indiscernible. After all, Roeg makes highly fragmented editing of impressionistic visuals to evoke a visceral reaction from the viewers. He explores weighty themes of grief and the loss of a relationship but through a surreal storytelling approach. So, it may take a bit for those who have grown up on the staple of Hollywood movies to get used to his style. Regardless, this 1973 film, starring Julie Christie & Donald Sutherland in the central roles, is a haunting exploration of grief through the eyes of a couple who lose their child.

Spoilers Ahead

Don’t Look Now (1973) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

Nicholas Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now” stars Julie Christie & Donald Sutherland as a married couple trying to process the accidental death of their young daughter. The film uses recurring motifs and flashbacks to keep the viewers immersed in its web of mystery.

What happens in ‘Don’t Look Now’?

“Don’t Look Now” begins with John (Donald Sutherland) & Laura Baxter (Julie Christie) in an English country home while their daughter, Christine (Sharon Williams), plays near the pond outside. At the time, he was working on his restoration plan for a church on a slide. While speaking with Laura, John notices a red liquid gliding across his slide and senses something ominous. So, he rushes out to find Christine drowned to death and carries her out of the water. Back inside, a book, ‘Beyond the Fragile Geometry of Space’ rests next to Laura.

Soon after, John and Laura travel to Venice since John has agreed to restore an ancient church in the city. Still trying to process their grief, John discusses the restoration plans with Laura in a local restaurant. That’s where she meets two old sisters, Heather (Hilary Mason) & Wendy (Clelia Matania). Despite being blind, Heather claims she can see the late Christine sitting between Laura & John, smiling. As a psychic, she shares some peculiar details about Christine that shock Laura. Once Laura returns to the table, she faints, shaken by what she just heard.

Laura’s Health

Since Laura becomes unconscious in the restaurant, John takes her to a hospital. There, she sees a group of kids playing on the other side of a glass. Later, she tells John what Heather told her. Laura believes that Christine is still with them and gets exhilarated by the thought of it. Although pleased by Laura’s rapid recovery, John doesn’t believe in what she said. After getting discharged, Laura insists on stopping by a church. Inside, she lights a few candles as John observes other visitors. Later, the couple meet the bishop who commissioned John for the renovation.

Since Laura kisses his ring, the bishop asks her whether she is Christian. Back in their hotel room, John returns to his sketchwork while Laura takes a bath. Soon after, they have passionate sex. Afterward, they head out for dinner and get lost along the way. During the moment they get separated, John notices a small figure passing by wearing a red coat like the one Cristine was wearing before she drowned. The next day, John returns to the practical work at the church. While he is on a ladder with the workers carrying a figure, Laura bumps into Heather and Wendy again. John notices them from a distance.

The Second Visit

Don’t Look Now (1973) Movie Ending Explained
A still from “Don’t Look Now” (1973)

During their second visit with Laura, Heather asks her the details about how Christine died. Laura reveals how John rushed out of the room, almost certain of Christine’s situation. Heather claims that John has a gift, and Christine is trying to talk with him. She believes this gift can also act as a curse for him. Before leaving, Heather & Wendy suggest holding a séance to contact Christine. For Laura, it eases the burden of Christine’s death. Although John is still skeptical about it, he doesn’t stop Laura from pursuing it.

Laura meets Heather & Wendy to speak with Christine, where Heather goes into a trance. Their terrifying encounter makes Laura believe that Christine is in danger and that she & John should immediately leave Venice. John believes Laura is going too far with her faith. Later at night, they receive a telephone call that reveals that their son had an accident at his boarding school in England. So, Laura travels to meet their son while John stays back to finish his project. After she leaves, John returns to work in the church to experience a near-death scenario when a scaffold collapses on him.

John’s Traumatisation

John gets traumatized by this incident that almost kills him. He thinks this is why Laura warned him about leaving Venice. Outside, he sees the local authorities bring a woman’s dead body out of the water. Later, he catches a glimpse of Laura along with Heather & Wendy on a boat. So, he asks around Venice to check if Laura has returned to Venice. But he reaches a dead end. So, he meets the police to report Laura’s probable disappearance. He tells them about Heather & Wendy and their suspicious meeting with his wife. The investigating inspector suspects something strange about John and gets him followed. While walking back to his hotel, John again catches a glimpse of the red-hooded figure, suggesting Christine’s presence.

Don’t Look Now (1973) Movie Ending Explained:

Who is the red hooded figure John keeps seeing in Venice?

John walks around the city, bewildered, looking for a sign of his wife. After hitting a dead end in his investigation, John calls his son’s boarding school to realize that Laura is, in fact, in England. After the call, John returns to the police station to inform them that he has found his wife. By then, the police had brought blind Heather in for questioning. John feels sorry for making Heather go through this ordeal. So, he walks her back to the hotel. While he drops Heather at the hotel, Laura returns to Venice and meets the investigator inspector. He offers her the details about Heather & Wendy. By the time she reaches their house, John leaves after seeing Heather suddenly going into a trance.

Once Heather comes out of trance, she insists Wendy should fetch John back because of her premonition. But Wendy cannot catch him. Moments later, Laura reaches there. Heather tells Laura to go find John right away to save his life. Meanwhile, John runs around the city following the red-hooded figure. Through the foggy streets, he finally catches up to the figure to realize that it isn’t Christine but a dwarf wearing an identical jacket. The hooded dwarf cuts John’s throat, leading to his death. Before dying, John realizes that the things he was seeing, like his wife’s presence in Venice, were just the premonition to his own death. So, the film is essentially a horrifying exploration of John & Laura’s psyche as they process their grief about Christine’s death.

Read More: 15 Great Psychological Crime Thrillers with Shocking Plot Twists

Trailer:

Don’t Look Now (1973) Movie Links: IMDb, Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes, Letterboxd
Don’t Look Now (1973) Movie Cast: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Adelina Poerio, Hilary Mason, Sharon Williams, Ann Rye, Clelia Matania, Renato Scarpa
Don’t Look Now (1973) Movie Genre: Mystery & Thriller | Runtime: 1h 50m
Where to watch Don’t Look Now

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