Nocebo (2023) Movie Explained: Directed by Lorcan Finnegan, ‘Nocebo’ is a Filipino-Irish psychological thriller film, now streaming on Hulu. Garret Shanley’s screenplay follows the story of a fashion designer who suffers a mysterious illness. Soon after, a Filipino carer arrives at her house and provides help through her traditional healing regimens. In the process, several dark truths about their lives are revealed, which shape our understanding of their world. The film benefits from its neatly executed surreal sequences that manage to creep you out as any good horror film would. 

This bilingual film stars Eva Green and Chai Fonacier in the central roles. Besides them, it stars Mark Strong, Billie Gadsdon, Cathy Belton, and Anthony Falcon. 

Spoilers ahead.

Nocebo (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis: What is Eva Green starrer ‘Nocebo’ about?

‘Nocebo’ on Hulu follows a children’s fashion designer – Christine (Eva Green), who suddenly starts feeling symptoms of a strange illness. While it baffles the doctors, a Filipino carer suddenly arrives at her doorstep and offers help by using her traditional folk healing techniques. Over time, we learn dark secrets from their lives that shape our understanding of who they are and what they represent.

The Mysterious Illness

The film begins with Christine driving her daughter, Bobs / Roberta (Billie Gadsdon), to school. She then goes to work on her fashion show. In the middle of the show, she gets interrupted by a call. The person on that side tells her something that deeply upsets her. Once she cuts the call, she suddenly sees a creepy, diseased dog walking toward her. Suddenly, it starts shaking its body, which releases some insects around it. One of them falls on Christine’s body, and due to its utter shock, she closes her eyes. The minute she opens it, she cannot see the dog. But we see the insect on the back of her neck. 

Even eight months after this incident, Christine keeps suffering from a mysterious illness. It takes away her usual mojo and keeps her tired for no apparent reason. After sending Bobs to school, she has a meeting with Liz (Cathy Belton) for her next collection. They talk about how Christine earlier sourced manufacturers herself. During and after their interaction, Christine’s hands keep trembling. That’s why she calls her husband – Felix (Mark Strong), and asks him to pick Bobs up from school. We learn that she started experiencing these tremors after the dog incident. 

Diana’s Arrival

After Christine returns home, Liz calls her to inform her about their ‘super-reasonable’ manufacturing operation in India. Christine agrees to work on the altercations Liz expects from her. Right after, she hears the doorbell. She opens the door to meet Diana (Chai Fonacier), a Filipino woman who reminds her about her call for a carer. For some reason, Christine cannot recall appointing Diana. Still, she lets her in. She takes her to a room and helps her make the bed. Once Christine leaves, Diana takes out a photo from her bag and holds it close to her heart. She remembers the moments when she gave birth to her daughter, and Christine remembers her experience of childbirth. On the floor, she notices an insect and captures it in an empty matchbox.  

Soon after, Felix returns home with Bobs. After Christine mentions Diana, he gets upset. Earlier, when he asked about hiring a carer, Christine did not approve his request. So, he wonders why she suddenly changed her mind. Felix asks how much Diana is going to get paid, and Christine cannot answer. Meanwhile, Diana eavesdrops on this argument. Soon after, she makes a traditional Filipino dish for the family and puts some powder in it. Bobs refuses to eat it and calls it Chinese. Christine corrects her and mentions it is not from China but from the Philippines. Felix talks about the lack of marketing of Filipino food as compared to other cuisines. 

Diana’s Remedy

Soon after the meal, Christine feels extreme pain in her arm. Diana offers her help and proceeds to tickle her. Christine starts giggling and suddenly realizes that the pain is gone. Later, once the family goes to sleep, Diana looks around inside the wardrobe. She also sees a news clipping that mentions Christine finding inspiration across the globe. It shows her photo with Diana’s daughter, holding a dress. Right after, Diana lays out a piece of paper outside her room door with some sand on it. In the dark, she says, ‘I’m here with you’. We get a glimpse into her past, where she was smitten by a Filipino man and started dancing with him. 

The next morning, Bob walks up to Diana’s room to notice footprints in the sand. While she walks away, Diana notices her. She folds the paper and takes it back to her room. After that, she brings breakfast directly to Christine and Felix’s bed. Although they both act civil and polite, they both awkwardly savor it. Later, when Bobs gets in the car for her school, she tells Christine about the footprints outside Diana’s room – the same size as hers. Right after, Diana gets in the car. While driving to the school, Christine mistakes the path and goes in another direction. So, Diana offers to walk Bobs to school. 

Christine’s Tremors

Even after leaving Bobs at school, Christine keeps feeling a strange sensation. Diana offers a solution for her tremors. Back at the house, Diana burns some coal in a pot. Then she adds a pebble in the water inside a glass bottle, which releases some dirt inside. Diana says that it is the bad stuff from Christine. She says – ‘When it becomes clear, bad stuff will be gone from Christine’s body.’ She asks Christine to trust her. Diana walks around her and blows in the water with a straw. Soon after, the water gets clean, as she mentioned. Christine feels better after this folk remedy. She gets curious about how it works. 

Diana’s Stange Past

Diana shares a strange story from her past. When she was a kid, a frail, old woman came to her house during a terrible storm. She was an Umu, looking to transfer her great powers to someone after her death. When she died, her soul jumped out of her mouth in the form of a black chick. Young Diana swallowed the bird, which gave her Umu supernatural powers that can heal or destroy someone. After that, she used those powers to earn a living but became an outcast because people started calling her a witch.

Diana tells Christine how ‘trust’ is an important element for these remedies to function properly. Even though her healing process helps Christine, Felix doubts Diana’s intentions and refuses to consider it helpful. Diana listens to their dialogue from a distance. In her room, she puts a photo of her with her daughter in an open box. Christine walks up to her room to share a note that reveals all the symptoms she experiences as a part of her dreadful illness. She mentions the encounter with the hideous dog and asks if Diana can help with other problems besides tremors and her memory loss. 

Diana’s Healing Process

Although Diana’s healing methods seem to help Christine, Felix does not trust her. At night, Bobs sees something strange – Diana floating in the air and reaching up to the clouds. Meanwhile, we see an incident from Diana’s past when she had to leave urgently, with her child, out of her burning house. In the present, Christine cannot find her medications. Diana says Christine mentioned she was going to throw them away. Christine feels she forgot to say that. However, Felix does not believe she suffers from memory loss. 

Later that day, Christine walks toward the fireplace to experience a terrible smoke approaching her. She thinks the whole room turned bright red due to the fire. But Felix walks in to make her realize that it isn’t true. That makes him even more concerned about Diana’s influence on her. So, a few hours later, he goes to Diana’s room and tells her to stay away from Christine. Diana responds to him bluntly and refuses to stop helping Christine. Felix feels like he has no control over any matter in his own house. When he steps out of the room, Bobs’ pet bird flies over his head in panic. It eventually dies. Diana helps Bobs bury it. 

Also,Read: 10 Essential Filipino Movies of the Decade (2010s)

Nocebo (2023) Movie Ending Explained

Eva Green in Nocebo (2023)
Eva Green in Nocebo (2023)

Despite Felix’s opposition, Diana continues with her treatment of Christine. Although it helps Christine get back her mojo, Felix cannot shake off the feeling that something’s wrong. When Diana goes out to send Bobs to school, Felix walks inside her room and finds Christine’s missing medications. After finalizing her deal with Liz’s company, Christine returns home to see her meds lying on the table. Felix reveals that he found them in Diana’s room. He blames Diana for controlling and manipulating his wife. Upon seeing her lack of remorse, Christine fires her.

After Diana’s departure, Christine starts sensing her symptoms back again. She struggles to breathe and sees the horrendous dog. Besides, she senses the itch on the back of her neck return. Later, Bobs tells her that the meds were in Felix’s car and not in Diana’s room. As a result, Christine confronts him. He maintains the fact that he isn’t lying. A few hours later, a bird suddenly starts flying over him. Because of that shock, he falls down the stairs. While he stays in the hospital for a while, Christine goes back to working on her new clothes’ collection for kids.

What happens during the video shoot for Christine’s new collection?

During a video shoot for her new collection, Christine suddenly starts seeing some horrifying things around her. She sees the dancing kids with strange rashes on their bodies. In the dark, she gets increasingly horrified by a strange sensation. Out of that horror, she screams in such a way that terrifies everyone around her. She returns home to get some rest. When Bob asks her if she is sick, Christine tells her to just go away. Soon after, Diana returns to her place to offer her comfort and support.

What happened in Diana’s past that led her to Christine?

In the past, Diana was working at a manufacturing facility for Christine’s collection. Like most Westerners, Christine treated and paid the Asian workers poorly and expected an excruciating amount of effort from them. Before leaving, she saw Diana’s daughter, Anina (Sariah Reyes-Themistocleous), hiding under a table. Once she left, Diana’s manager told her never to bring her kid to work. After that, Diana went out to drink some coconut water. But within those few moments, the sweatshop started burning because of a technical malfunction. Diana rushed to save her daughter but could not do that.

What is the reason behind Christine’s mysterious illness?

After returning to Christine’s house, Diana feeds her a spoonful of some powder. Then, she chants something and makes Christine sew clothes the way she was asked to. While sweating profusely, Christine sees horrifying visions of Anina caught in the fire along with other innocent workers. That is when Diana saw the horrendous dog that Christine had seen eight months before. Diana sought revenge for her daughter’s death and thus made Christine experience the same horror. That is the reason behind Christine’s mysterious illness. 

Over time, Christine’s paranoia intensifies. She finds herself in the middle of the fire, which starts burning her body. Around the same time, Felix returns home from the hospital. He walks inside to find Christine’s burned-up skeleton. Meanwhile, Diana goes to Bobs’ room and tells her to go to the garden. Then, she jumps down on the ground and dies. The black chick from before gets out of Diana’s mouth and approaches Bobs. She engulfs it, which gives him the same special powers as Diana. Back in the Philippines, Diana’s spirit says her final goodbye to her husband. In the end, Bobs walks up in the woods alone. While collecting herbs, she senses Diana seeing her from a distance. 

What does the film’s ending represent?

Christine’s illness represents the result of her absolute lack of remorse over neglecting the emotional needs and physical limitations of others. It portrays guilt in this ‘eat the rich’ themed surreal trip. Since, in a way, Christine took her daughter away from her, Diana does the same to her. That’s why she brings Bobs under her spell.

Nocebo (2023) External Links: Rotten Tomatoes
Cast: Eva Green, Mark Strong, Chai Fonacier

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