If you need something to distract you from, well, everything, Nocturne on Amazon Prime, is a straight 90-minute escape. You’ll love it, especially if you like unsettling irrational thrillers with a bit of evil rituals sprinkled in.
Written and directed by Zu Quirke in her first directorial appearance, Nocturne stars Sydney Sweeney as a young pianist who serves a fancy arts boarding school with her somewhat more talented twin sister Vivian (Madison Iseman). Juliet dreams of nothing less than the best, and only applies to one college: Julliard. Unfortunately, she doesn’t get in. Even worse, her sister does get in.
From here, things take a turn! This burning jealousy and rivalry between the two sisters serves as the plot of Nocturne. Well obviously spiced up with the supernatural woo woo.!
The film opens with the startling scene of the events leading to the suicide of Moira Wilson. A music freak, she plays Giuseppe Tartini’s ‘Devil’s Trill Sonata’ on her violin in those last minutes of her life. As the oversized grandpa clock in the place strikes 6, she puts the violin down, quietly walks to the balcony, and falls to her death. The film then shifts its focus to its two main characters, twins Juliet (Sydney Sweeney) and Vivian (Madison Iseman). As Juliet later states, she first showed an interest in music, but Vivian has left her behind somewhere along the way.
Vivian gets taken into Juilliard, and after Moira’s death, she is given a chance to perform the concert solo. The sisters attend the same music school. Quirke discovers Juliet’s envy towards Vivian behind a shadow of a doubt. She is sceptical of Vivian’s talent, her relationship with her handsome and skilled boyfriend Max (Jacques Colimon), and even the fact that she lost her virginity before her. Vivian approaches her sister’s rage and impediment through the generosity of a victor. But when the table is turned later in the film, she proves herself to be just as vicious and cruel.
Nocturne Ending Explained
Juliet finds Moira’s journal, in which the dead musician not only wrote down ‘Devil’s Trill Sonata’ but also painted these redolent images that Juliet believes answer to the tragedies in Moira’s life. Later, she believes that her life follows the same pattern by making her afraid that she will die, just like Moira. During the senior concerto competition, Juliet plays the same piano concerto as her sister, Saint-Saëns’ 2. This causes a crack between them that never really heals. She removes herself from the classes believing that the teacher is holding her back.
Instead, Juliet asks to be taught by Dr. Cask (Ivan Shaw), the school’s celebrity teacher. He also happens to be Vivian’s instructor. The principal of the school approves, and she begins practice with Cask. During a secret student gathering off school grounds, Vivian breaks her arm and is suspended. Juliet succeeds her for the concerto solo. But that is still not enough for her. She realizes that Vivian has cheated on Max with Cask and tells Max about it. He breaks up with Vivian and later sleeps with Juliet. Although he later regrets it, the damage has already been done.
Cask’s association with Vivian becomes yet one more thing that Juliet takes away from her sister. It appears that since she has found Moira’s book, Juliet has fortunately turned all the characters of Vivian life that made her jealous in the first place.
As the ending approaches and Juliet plans to perform the concerto solo, she is troubled with surreal happenings. The ending is convoluted, vague, and vastly open to interpretations. Here are some possible theories about it.
One Last Fight
The sisters have one last fight before Juliet takes the stage. Vivian appears to take sport in reminding Juliet that she froze the last time she was on stage. When the time of her show finally comes, Juliet freezes again and leaves the stage. Deeply ashamed, she kills herself by jumping from the school rooftop. But as she sinks to her death, she has a vision of happily delivering the performance.
The Supernatural Angle
If we believe that the film has supernatural elements in it, Moira’s notebook can be thought to make a deal with the Devil. When Juliet draws the lost sixth page of the notebook, she realizes that she is set to meet Moira’s same fate. Her greatest desire has ever been to be regarded better than Vivian, and the Devil does deliver on that promise in the end. In the film’s final moments, the fear of her coming death proves too much for her, and she leaves the stage. During her fall, the Devil allows her a flash of happiness by showing her that she has delivered the performance.
Everything is Juliet’s Imagination
Juliet’s show is well-received, and as her principal says, she is truly a star. She subconsciously considers a scenario in which she left the stage and committed suicide like Moira. After her fall, the campus is shown to be full. If her death were real, other students would have noticed. The fact that they don’t indicate that all of it is Juliet’s imagination.
What we believe
Conceivably there is an argument to be made that the final shot of Juliet’s dead body is more of a symbolic death of the “old” Juliet.
However, I’m inclined to believe that Juliet did jump off of that path and die. We now know that the picture of her holding a bouquet of roses in front of a standing ovation is a fantasy that Juliet has. While seemingly supernatural occurrences haunt Juliet throughout the film, no one else confirms those are real occurrences. Max didn’t see the light before Vivian fell off the cliff, and no one sees the blood on her hands, either. The blood on her bed, which Vivian sees, really was from her period. Finally, as is an unfortunately common trope in movies like this, Juliet takes medication for her anxiety, suggesting she may not be in her right mind.
The Nocturne ending is ambiguous, but most signs point to Juliet driving herself crazy with her dream to become a successful musician. Deep down, she knew she would never achieve that dream.
The Nocturne is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Videos with a rating of 5.6/10 on IMDb and 3/5 on Letterboxd.